Good Friday: Letting Go of our Illusions of Who we are

If you are like me, you have probably discovered that it takes an enormous amount of energy to try to justify your existence. It is the resume approach to life. In such an approach, we try to prove that our lives matter because of all the wonderful things we have done. When we submit our resume, whether to other people or to God, we are hoping that they will be impressed, and find us more than acceptable.  However, such an approach breeds anxiety because it requires that we deny so much of who we are. Yes, the accomplishments on our resume are true, but we know it is not the whole truth—not even close. Enter Good Friday.

Good Friday is the day we simply sit at the foot of cross, and in the words of John’s Gospel “Look on the one whom they,” and yes we, “have pierced (19:37).”  It is a day to let go of our illusions that we are somehow not implicated in the death of Jesus. One of the reasons that on Palm Sunday and Good Friday we read the passion in a participatory fashion is to bring home the fact that this story is not just about the people back then, but about us. Like Judas we are troubled by Jesus’ treasonous ways, and therefore we collude with the powers that be to betray Jesus. Like Peter we act as though we don’t know Jesus in times of trial. Like the crowds screaming “crucify him”, we aren’t really willing to live with him as our King. Life really is much more convenient being obedient to some other ruler.

Looking on the one whom we have pierced requires us to let go of who we think we are and accept the totality of who we really are. Our illusions about who we are have to die. If we are willing to sit at the foot of the cross and let go of our false self, something new and wonderful can be born out of the “blood and water that flow from Jesus’ side” at the end of John’s passion narrative. In the First Letter of John, we hear that “the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (1:7).” In John’s Gospel, water is “living water” that will become in the one who drinks it “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life (4:14).” What flows out of Jesus’ side? The waters of baptism and the blood of the Eucharist—the symbols of a whole new life made possible by the grace of God.

If we can let go of our illusions about who we are, we can “be born anew.” Of course, it won’t be our doing. It will be God’s. On Good Friday we look on the one whom we have slain, let go, and wait.