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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

March 29, 2024: Good Friday: Today we cradle our broken hearts as tenderly as we would a sick and crying child

March 29, 2024: Good Friday: Today we cradle our broken hearts as tenderly as we would a sick and crying child


Muslim, Jewish, Christian Prayer for Peace

From Pax Christi USA and the Fellowship of Reconciliation

O Divine Mother, you are the source of life and peace.

Praised be your name forever.

We know it is you who turn our minds to thoughts of peace.

Hear our prayer in this time of conflict.

Your power changes hearts.


Muslims, Christians, and Jews remember, and profoundly affirm,

that they are followers of one Divinity, children of Abraham,

brothers and sisters; enemies begin to speak to one another;

those who were estranged join hands in friendship;

nations seek the way of peace together.


Strengthen our resolve to give witness to these truths by the way we live.

Give to us:

UNDERSTANDING that puts an end to strife;

MERCY that quenches hatred; and

FORGIVENESS that overcomes vengeance.

Empower all people to live in your law of love.




Good Friday Reflection:

Many wise traditions know the importance of naming one’s loss or sorrow, since suppressing it only makes it worse. Buddhist monk and author Thich Nhat Hanh suggests cradling our broken hearts as tenderly as we would a sick and crying child.


In a particularly catholic way, abstraction such as “suffering” is translated to tangible, visible word and gesture in the Good Friday liturgy. The celebration links our individual stories and struggles concretely to the overarching story of Christ’s suffering.


The Presider’s Prostration

Liturgy, at its best, speaks through symbol or gesture, not needing many words to convey meaning. For instance, submersion in the waters of Baptism, lighting the Easter candle, or offering a cup of wine all speak eloquently without words.

The Good Friday service begins with a silent procession, and the presider prostrating before the table. Can you imagine of we all lay prostrate on the floor with our arms outstretched what a wonderful sight that would make -- and a wonderful gesture to the world?


Different people probably have different interpretations at different times of their lives. My interpretation is that we need to examine our lives. So often we have killed that divine spark in each other, through a callous word, a harsh condemnation, a heavy hand. We need to stop and cradle the people we have hurt and ask for forgiveness. We need to cradle the earth and think for a moment about the people who are suffering this day. WEe join them in man act of total submission.

On our faces we meditate silently on the fact that the powers of oppression found it so easy and convenient to destroy Jesus who had no stain or blemish, was kind and opened his heart to every person in the world.


Words can’t touch the tragedy: symbolically, we all lie down arms and hearts open to the earth to earth’s embrace – bringing us back to our humility and humanity.


The Reading:

“You relied on the LORD—let him deliver you; if he loves you, let him rescue you” (Ps 22:9). If God loves you?


Jesus, who began praying this psalm from the cross, must have suffered the ultimate abandonment: doubt that his Father—who had always been a source of joy and strength—loved him. Fully human, not just play-acting, he descended to the depths of human exile. Yet the psalms have a remarkable way of pirouetting from one emotion to another, often from depth to peak.


Kathy McGovern presents a positive interpretation in her blog “The Story and You.” After Jesus, in agony, calls out the beginning verse: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?,” some women “standing at a distance” respond, in synagogue style to his introduction by reciting the rest of it, all 31 verses, including the triumphant end, when the suffering one proclaims that ‘all will proclaim the Divine Spirit to generations still to come, her righteousness to a people yet unborn.’


22 I will declare your name to my people;

    in the assembly I will praise you.

24 For he has not despised or scorned

    the suffering of the afflicted one;

he has not hidden his face from him

    but has listened to his cry for help.


27 All the ends of the earth

    will remember and turn to the Lord,

and all the families of the nations

    will bow down before him,

28 for dominion belongs to the Lord

    and he rules over the nations.


30 Posterity will serve him;

    future generations will be told about the Father.

31 They will proclaim his righteousness,

    declaring to a people yet unborn:

    He has done it!

“Jesus relies on ‘those standing at a distance’—and that’s us, too, isn’t it?—to finish the psalm for him.


The Passion

The reading from the Passion according to John follows Jesus from his questioning by Annas, the high priest, to the praetorium where he is tried by Pontius Pilate. The time frame for most of Chapter 18 occurs at night.


After the Last Supper, Jesus goes to the garden in darkness. Judas comes with soldiers bearing lanterns and torches. They then bring him to the court of Annas. There, Peter’s denials occur by the charcoal fire; it is still night. But John 18:28 records, “it was morning.” That raises the question, where did Jesus spend the night?


Scripture scholar McGovern gives a fascinating talk about Holy Week. One of her most vivid descriptions is of a dark, spidery, terrifying pit. Prisoners who’d been taken into custody were lowered into it by pulleys and kept chained there so they wouldn’t kill themselves before their trials. It is most likely, she concluded, that Jesus would have spent the night before his trial by Pilate in this dank dungeon.


The light of the world was plunged into terrible darkness and chained there. What were Jesus’ thoughts? Clearly, he wouldn’t have been able to sleep much. Did he pray? Did he console other prisoners? Did he remember his friends at their last meal together, or think of his mother? It’s an unrecorded part of the narrative. We can only imagine what happened.


But it might bring tremendous consolation for people trapped in various addictions, imprisoned, or victimized in the countless ways humans torture each other to know that Jesus endured what they do.

He who was beauty, grace, freedom, and compassion was chained to a filthy wall. He who had never hurt anyone felt the raw bite of metal into his skin. He who had such clarity about his mission did not know what horror the morning might bring. He entered deeply into the worst of being human.

The Cross

Father Richard Rohr describes Jesus’ body on the cross: “Jesus’ body is a standing icon of what humanity is doing and what God suffers ‘with,’ ‘in,’ and ‘through’ us. It is an icon of utter divine solidarity with our pain and our problems.”


Scratch the surface of our Emmaus family we find the strength and the sadness. The triumphs ands the tragedies. In a family, a staff, or a work site, the stories of suffering run deep. Add in the veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan, the physical and mental aftermaths of war and the ripple effect on their families—an immense tide of suffering crashed at the foot of the cross. I have friends who just lost a daughter to a sudden heart attack. She was only 40 with two small children. They suffer. We have our friend Scott who is trying desperately to emerge from drug addiction.

We see every day the immense, human caused suffering of Gaza, Haiti and Ukraine. It boggles our minds and we absorb the trauma of those innocent people caught in desperate situations. We remember the lives of immigrants on the bridge and ask why. Why them of all people?

Each of us suffers and by connecting our individual pain this Good Friday to the suffering of Jesus and to each others' pain -- we know we don’t suffer alone. As Steve likes to say “We are walking each other home.” We are companions on the road to Emmaus who endure and seek to transform our pain together. We hope for better, kinder days and are ready to work to create the kindom of God.

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