Good Friday 2014
Christ Church (Parish) Church
Fredericton, New Brunswick
April 18, 2014 12 Noon - 3:00 p.m.
The Reverend Anthony Kwaw
Rector of Fredericton
The Reverend Canon Jim Irvine
Partner, Counselor, Comforter, Love has found none lovelier…
“I am about my Father’s business,” is the mantra that followed Jesus throughout his life. His sense of purpose was expressed early in life. He had gone to Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph when he was an adolescent and had stayed on after they had left. The details of the time he spent in the Temple precincts will forever be unknown to us. They are not recorded for our benefit. But it was not for our benefit that he remained in the City. He sought clarification of what his life was to become. As a pubescent youth, he sat in the midst of the bearded scholars who were well versed in the Torah.
The men with long beards, their prayer shawls wrapped about their shoulders, remarked that he impressed them with the questions that he asked. From an early age Jesus honed the skill of asking questions. Throughout the gospel accounts we find that he much preferred asking penetrating questions over providing glib answers.
When Mary and Joseph realized that Jesus was not returning to Galilee they left their caravan and returned to Jerusalem. I can only imagine their frantic search… in the streets and ally ways… in the markets and public areas… amongst their friends and family who were in the City… until they approached the Temple Mount.
It was there that they beheld the young boy, enrapt in conversation and mining each hour for what insights he might gain that would help him set his feet on a path he would follow. I can only imagine the worry expressed in the voices of Mary and Joseph as they chastened him for his delinquency. And I can only stand in amazement to learn that his curiosity trumped their consternation. “I am about my Father’s business,” seems a saucy justification few of us would have dared in our youth.
Mary and Joseph beheld the young boy as he beheld them. Looks darted from one to another: between Joseph and Mary; and between them and the boy searching their gaze for some inkling of understanding. And we have no idea what they must have talked about as they left the Temple and began, again, their journey home. Disapproval and disappointment were exchanged perhaps more by looks than by words.
Jesus’ ministry was filled with opportunities where he beheld others in various circumstances. Men and women presented all sorts and conditions that frequently had his eyes meet theirs. In these encounters healing and forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration assured the beneficiaries that they had beheld the gaze of one who was sent by God.
The women of Jerusalem met Jesus as he followed the route through the City to Golgotha, struggling beneath the weight of his cross beam. They may have known him. Possibly they may have known of him. They may have remembered an earlier day when an earlier Herod had made the thresholds of homes in Bethlehem run red with infants’ blood. Embittered mothers stood, angry at Herod, and angry at God, and angry at the family of Joseph that had secreted away to Egypt – avoiding the blade of Herod’s Guards. For a time the streets of Bethlehem fell silent and the laughter of young boys was not heard.
Jesus beheld these women and the moment could not have been lost on him. His discovery of his escape into Egypt and the survivor’s guilt for having escaped the vengeance of Herod would have haunted him. He was about to atone for his escape – and their loss – these women, and women like them. His gaze drew him closer to their circumstance of loss and grief and anger and hatred. “I am about my Father’s business,” flashes to mind. He was, after all, the last of the Bethlehem babies.
And on Golgotha Jesus’ gaze meets once again that of his mother.
In that brief exchange that must have felt like an eternity worry mingled with fear as tears mingled with blood. And the regret – was there regret? Had Mary’s “Yes” to God led to this? And knowing this, might she have withheld her “Yes”? Had Jesus’ lingering on in Jerusalem two decades earlier now filled his eyes, along with his tears with the deep rooted regret of his youthful insolence?
Son and mother encounter – for the last time – and between them passes a look far more expressive than the whispers from trembling lips. Oh – to touch once again! Sufficient for the moment is for them to share tears. Little did Mary imagine that their return from exile in a foreign land would bring them to this. Had her “Yes” been repudiated? Had her willingness to engage the will of God come to this bleak end? Tears blurred her sight and she, along with the Beloved Disciple by her side felt lost and dejected.
Seiger Köder’s canvas captures this sense of intimacy between Mary and her son.
His insight places Mary’s hand on Jesus’ hand. As he embraces the dreadful instrument of our forgiveness, so Mary embraces Jesus – the agent of our redemption. In this glace she knew that Jesus somehow was about his Father’s business. Her love for him and her loss of him finds expression in her compassion.
That love is sufficient – knowing that as she beholds her son in this fleeting moment, a pause taken in haste, sees the power of God and the wisdom – the Sophia of God and that revelation gains peace. The day is filled with finality. In this moment Mary finds the finality of Jesus’ life… in an instant… in a touch… in a look.
Life is gladness… lived with her!
2011 Come and Follow Me
2014 Folly of God