Triduum Retreat 2020 – Good Friday – God’s solidarity with us in suffering

Welcome to this audio retreat produced by the Jesuit Institute South Africa.

For Good Friday, Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell reflects on ‘God’s Solidarity with us in suffering’.

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God’s solidarity with us in our Suffering

This year Good Friday comes to us in the midst of a global pandemic. Here in South Africa it comes after two weeks of being confined to our own homes. We cannot celebrate together as we normally would by gathering in churches but we have been living it. Perhaps as the world we are better able to receive the Good Friday message this year than at any other moment in living memory.
In other years some of us may have felt more removed from the experience of human suffering. But this year there is no one whose life has not been touched in some way by the impact of the covid-19 virus. Our lives have been completely disrupted. As a world community we are grappling with immense suffering on many levels. Some of us are struggling with a deep loneliness; some are sick; many around the world are mourning loved ones. We may wonder where God is and how God could allow such suffering.
Into this reality Good Friday speaks a message of profound hope. This celebration is the most powerful reminder we have of God’s solidarity with us in suffering. It shows us a God who identifies with us and who chooses to enter into our suffering with us.
Today we remember that God longs to draw close to us in our suffering and that God chose to live into that reality in the incarnation in the person of Jesus. And so God really gets it.
God doesn’t observe suffering from a distance but suffers with us and for us.
It wasn’t an act. Yes Jesus was God but he was also fully human. He experienced exactly the same kinds of emotions we grapple with.
As we listen again to the story of that first Good Friday we see this. The previous night in the Garden of Gethsemane he grappled with terror and a desire not to have to endure the suffering he sensed would come. And as his disciples fell asleep he faced the agony of that fear alone.
He suffered aloneness in his prison cell, without access to those he loved in what he must have known were his final hours.
He suffered physical pain in being tortured and nailed to the cross. He would have spent his final hours on the cross suffocating and struggling to breathe.
When he saw his mother Mary and his Beloved Disciple at the foot of the Cross we see his concern that his mother would be provided for.
Jesus suffered not only physical and emotional pain. He suffered spiritual desolation. He cries out on the Cross. “O God, my God why have you forsaken me? In that moment he could not sense the comfort of the closeness of his Abba. He, like us at times, felt abandoned by God.
And those who were his closest friends struggled too. Some ran away because they were afraid of suffering the same fate. Some stood at the foot of the Cross. They also experienced some of the emotions we may feel in this time as we may have heard of loved ones who have lost their lives.
On Good Friday we are invited to be present to Jesus as he suffers. But he is also present to us as we suffer. We can bring all of our pain and grief to the foot of the Cross. Our own grief and suffering and the grieving of humanity. Today is a day to allow yourself to be held securely and tenderly in the embrace of the Trinity.
Today we are also asked to be compassionately present to all who are part of the suffering body of Christ: Mary, Mary of Magdala and the Beloved disciple were among those who stood at the foot of the Cross. In the face of unspeakable suffering they continued to love courageously. They could not change the reality but they remained present.
We may not be able to be physically present but when we intentionally hold those who suffer in our love and prayer we are intimately connected as the suffering body of Christ.
We are called to stand with compassionate presence at the foot of the Cross of:
Those who are afraid
Those who are dying;
Those who are sick;
Those who have lost family members or friends;
Those who are far from loved ones at this time;
Those who are on the frontlines risking their lives treating the sick;
Those who feel abandoned in their suffering;
Those who feel that even God has forsaken them;
That ministry of compassionate presence is something that is powerful and that transcends time and space. We can choose to run from the pain as Jesus’s disciples did on Good Friday – or we can remain present as Mary, Mary of Magdala and the Beloved disciple did. But we are not asked to do this alone. God remains with us.
The story of Good Friday is the promise that God is with us in our suffering and we also know that there is a reality beyond Good Friday. The story does not end here. We who live post the Resurrection know that this time of suffering is not the end. The same God who suffers with us and for us, is leading us beyond this time of grief into a new redemptive reality that we cannot even begin to comprehend or imagine right now.
I would like to invite you now into a time of imaginative prayer:
Find yourself a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted. Take a few deep breaths.
It may help to just close your eyes for a moment.
Become aware of God’s presence with you right now.
Sense God’s loving compassionate gaze resting on you. Perhaps you may even become aware of God’s embrace enfolding you.
Imagine the Trinity in heaven from all time gazing down on the world and seeing Jesus on the Cross at that moment in history: seeing his brokenness and suffering. Seeing those who grieve the loss of their son; their friend; their teacher…..
And then see the Father and the Holy Spirit invisibly enfolding Jesus in love.
If you can, now imagine sitting with Mary as she holds the body of her Beloved Son in her arms. As she touches him and kisses him. See the anguish of her loss… and gently become aware of your own. The shared grief of the death of Jesus and the other griefs…..
And then see the Creator surrounding and enfolding you both in love.
Now imagine the Trinity looking at our reality in April 2020. People enclosed in their homes; people sick; some dying; people grieving the loss of loved ones. People celebrating Good Friday in their own homes. Imagine the Trinity looking down on you in your own home, in the chair you are sitting in now and bathing you in light and love. God who knows your particular Good Friday griefs. Become aware of the Trinity continuing to surround you with love. Bring your pain to the one who creates you and sustains you. God can bear your anger, your grief, even if it is directed towards God right now. Perhaps you just sit with God. Perhaps you pour out your heart.
What is it that you need most in this moment – an embrace; the comfort of presence; the gift of peace or assurance. If you are able to, open yourself to receive what you need. And if you can’t yet it’s ok.
And though you may not be able to sense it now, though you may wonder where God is – yet know that that embrace will hold you beyond this night of suffering.
Take your time to come out of the time of reflection as we pray slowly together the words that Jesus gave us. “Our Father…”
I invite you as you stay with this day to:
  1. Continue to console Jesus and his disciples and continue to allow them to console you.
  2. Pray for those who suffer most today and so stand with them at the foot of their Cross.
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Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell has worked in the area of Ignatian Spirituality for 19 years and heads up the work of the Jesuit Institute School of Spirituality. Her primary focus is the training and supervision of spiritual directors and the giving of retreats. She is also a registered Psychologist and her PhD focused on the interface between Christian Spirituality and Psychology. Annemarie is an editorial advisor to “The Way” journal of Spirituality and has authored a number of articles relating to the training of Spiritual Directors in an African context. She has contributed to several books, most recently co-authoring a book of Lenten Reflections: “Long Journey to the Resurrection”. She has contributed to international conferences and consultations in Spirituality in the United Kingdom; the United States; Rome; Spain, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

a.paulin-campbell@jesuitinstitute.org.za @annemariepc_c
See more from Annemarie Paulin-Campbell
1 Comment
  • Anne Hart
    Posted at 16:34h, 10 Apr

    A beautiful reflection Annemarie

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