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Good Friday 2013
Christ Church (Parish) Church
Fredericton, New Brunswick
March 29, 2013 12 Noon - 3:00 p.m.
The Reverend Anthony Kwaw
Rector of Fredericton
The Reverend Canon Jim Irvine
Another voice develops the story of the day, the voice of the Beloved Disciple. Placed as it is, here after having heard Jesus speak twice we might surmise that Mary had ascended the path her son had taken. That would have placed her in the midst of this obscenity. The sights and sounds and smells of this awful place would surely have overwhelmed Mary. John, who was with her would certainly have wanted to shield her from the exposure.
John 19: 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
While tradition places the event in the midst of the six hours Jesus was on the cross, I can hardly imagine any woman venturing onto the heights of Golgotha. The stench of decaying flesh and dried blood would repulse even the most curious and brazen of women. The sight of naked criminals in their last hours, the air filled with their vile cursing and blasphemy, would have them avert their eyes and cover their ears.
I suspect that Jesus saw his Mother and the disciple whom he loved en route to the Place of the Skull. Crowds thronged the streets, the City’s population swollen for the Festival. Some would have greeted Jesus as he entered the City only days before. The hosannas and waving of palms now became shouts of derision and gestures of rebuke. In the crush of the crowd early in the day would have a circus air about it. I can imagine Jesus catching a glimpse of some of his followers, fearful, curious but cautious. And included among them would have been Mary, his Mother in the company of John.
And when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her he made his greeting… “Behold…”
The ambiguity of the phrase allows us to behold so much… Mary, of course John; and John likewise Mary. But so much more is beheld in the drama. Jesus enables us to place ourselves in the crowd that lined his route through the City streets and beyond, through the gate and out into the worn path that led to the foot of a hillside. Curious onlookers from across the Empire jostled for a place to view the spectacle. There, in the crowd was an old one nursing hatred for the injustice of oppression once the promise of God and now occupied by an iron rod of Rome. From face to face we behold men as well as women – all seeking release to come. Many thought that they had welcomed a Messiah, a deliverer, a redeemer. Their acclamations soured to disappointment and their hatred ignited again. Ignite candles they burn for freedom; each voice demanding a tyrant’s fall.
Jesus’ greeting may have reached the straining ears of his Mother and her guardian. The greeting may just as easily have been conveyed by a look. So many of Jesus’ communications took the form of a look. The evening before, his penetrating gaze disturbed Peter in the flickering light of a charcoal fire only hours before the cock crow heralded the dawn of this day.
The phrase, the look, draws us close and invites us to acknowledge what it is that we behold. And all too frequently, while we hear the phrase individually, while we catch the glance arresting our attention individually, that which we behold often draws us closer to others. Justice is not found in isolation. Justice washes over us and immerses us in the reality of our associations.
The old one nursing hatred is not alone. The acknowledgement of the hatred is bitter. Injustice, while imposed on one is not confined to one. We find it hard to allow the hatred and are fearful in allowing the injustice that is the cause of our hatred. All seek release to come and we await in solitude with diminished hope. Such faces lined the streets of Jerusalem. Such faces line our streets today.
Jesus’ penetrating gaze ignites us, dimly burning as we are.
Isaiah 42:1 Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
Among those faces, broken and dimly burning, are Mary and John. Together they burn brighter, even on the darkest day. The darkness of the day has no effect of the flame they become.
We all seek Justice. Bruised, we are bound together. Flickering, we are not quenched. Jesus invites us to behold something greater than ourselves. From the seventeenth century we have found ourselves as products of the Age of Individuality. We have been born and bred into a society that is less corporate and more selfish. Independence, we like to call it, failing to recognize the mutual interdependence Jesus invites us to engage.
The Sacramental examination of our Baptismal Rite rehearses the scene: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
Having been baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection, we stand to see his piercing gaze. We behold another; John beheld Mary, Mary beheld John. Their response ministered to the need of the other. Those whom we behold in our lives, draw us out beyond our fear and weakness and engages us in the lives of others. He has ignited us with a flame that defies the darkness.
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