Good Friday reflection: Sharing the life of another

By Fr Brendan Callaghan SJ

On Good Friday, we remind ourselves that Jesus has entered into our story, that Jesus has opened himself to the abandonment and the abuse and the utter aloneness that we can experience.

Jesus’s sharing of our life that begins with the Annunciation, that was spelt out in the celebration and service of Holy Thursday, is lived-out to the end.

But maybe our words are not quite right if we say that Jesus has taken on himself our suffering. It’s not that this story is about anything less; rather that there is something more to be uncovered here. Sharing the life of another is something more.

Two hundred years ago, Moshe Leib, one of the great Rabbis of the Hassidic tradition, was asked if he suffered with those suffered among his people. “What do you mean ‘suffer with’?” he replied. “It is after all my own suffering, so what else can I do but suffer it?”

A few years ago the journalist and editor Matthew Engel wrote of the illness and death of his young son:

“I began to break down regularly, as I had in the early days. I no longer knew what was selfishness (my own self-pity) and what was selflessness (my hatred of his suffering). Then I began to think the inability to distinguish was perhaps a definition of love.”

It seems to me that in the measure that we have loved – as parent or child, as spouse or partner, as lover or friend – we know the truth expressed in those struggling words.

“It is my own suffering …the inability to distinguish [is] perhaps a definition of love.”  We know this as our truth: this is how we are; this is what love involves. And knowing this as our truth, do we expect less from God?

Image: Rebecca Burns

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