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Good Friday Meditation

Good Friday Meditation: John 19: 16b-30

“When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

In his chapter on conquering the fear of death Rabbi Harold Kushner recalls a lecture he attended on the Old Testament story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The speaker suggested that by eating from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil Adam and Eve learned something that was bad and good.

They learned that one day they would die, and having learned how brief and fragile a human life could be, they would never again be able to think of their lives in the same way.

This knowledge of our mortality has been passed down from Adam and Eve to you and me. It is a growing awareness especially for those of us who are now long past our younger years when we thought of ourselves as invincible or immortal.

What is bad about this knowledge of our mortality is that, for many of us, the prospect or inevitability of death can end up casting a shadow or pall over our remaining days.

In his classic book, The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker writes “Of all things that move men, one of the principle ones is the terror of death. It is the basic fear that influences all others, a fear from which no one is immune.”

Religions of the world have sought to combat this fear of the world going on without us.

In Orthodox Judaism the deceased receive comfort in knowing that they will live on in perpetuity through the memory of their descendants who four times a year, pause to remember and give thanks for them.

In Buddhism having shed this earthly body our spirit or soul is said to live on eternally as part of the one Great Spirit or Atma.

In Christianity our being does not end with death for, in the words of the Apostle Paul “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” Here is some comfort in the face our mortality.

In my experience, what many of us are afraid of is not our death itself but the circumstances and/or suffering which we often associate with death. Many of us would agree with comedian Woody Allen, who said “I don’t mind dying; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

Having recently updated my life insurance policy, the thought briefly crossed my mind that at this point in my life I could die alone. For some the fear of dying can be paralyzing and result in a withdrawal from life as we wait for the inevitable.

If this is what is bad about the knowledge of our mortality then what can be good? The knowledge of our mortality can be good if we are able to learn to never put off today what we may never get around to doing tomorrow.

Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross the Author of several books on death and dying writes “It is the denial of death that is partially responsible for people living empty, purposeless lives; for when you live as if you’ll live forever, it becomes too easy to postpone the things you know you must do.” “The real fear of dying “Is the fear that we will leave this world with our tasks unfinished, and the best way, indeed the only way, to defeat death, is to live fearlessly and purposefully today.”

“Death,” writes Harold Kushner, “marks the end of life in the same way that a period marks the end of a sentence. It doesn’t rob the sentence of meaning; it clarifies what the meaning of the sentence is.” “It is finished.” Jesus declares from the cross before taking his last breath.

From very early on in his ministry Jesus was well aware of his mortality and imminent death. “I must go to Jerusalem,” he tells his disciples suffer at the hands of the elders and chief priests and be killed and on the third day be raised.” Still, he would not allow the knowledge of his impending death keep him from fulfilling his life’s purpose.

He had set his face toward Jerusalem his unconditional love for the least the last and the lost and his acts of justice would eventually lead him into conflicts with the rulers and principalities of the world.

His death was inevitable. At the age of 33, Jesus had completed his life’s work that which God had given him to do revealing the way for all of us
in the face of our own mortality.

“Those who will save their life who live in fear of death will lose it, but those who lose their life, who live fearlessly now, in the face of our own mortality for God’s sake and the sake of sharing Good News will find it.”

Jesus’ death was like a period at the end of a sentence. His death did not define him but clarified the meaning of all that had come before how he had lived, and loved and given himself for God and for others.

And three days from now we will witness as his life will be vindicated with an exclamation mark when he triumphs over the grave.

Let us pray.

O Lord, as you gave yourself to feed the hungry and heal the sick to set free those imprisoned within the walls of their own thoughts and choices as you lived fearlessly under the threat of death challenging the injustices of the principalities and powers of this world, so too, may we live never putting off today the good we can do that we may never get around to doing tomorrow.

Help us to live fearlessly, joyfully so that when our life is done here on earth, we too might say, “It is finished.” And commend our Spirit to you.


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