Dear Grace: I have never understood why the day Jesus died a horrible, painful death on the Cross is called “Good Friday.” Please tell me why we call it “good.”
© Copyright 2003 Grace D. MacKinnon
This article taken from Grace's new book, Dear Grace: Answers to Questions About the Faith, now available in our online store! Faith questions may be sent to Grace via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also visit her online at www.DearGrace.com.
The crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ was surely the greatest single act of suffering and evil that ever occurred in the history of the human race. There has never been anything worse done than to kill the only Son of God. So, we ask ourselves why God allowed that. And why is the day that He died called “Good Friday?”
Did God have to save us by becoming one of us and then suffer and die? No, of course not. He could have done it in any way He wished. But in choosing suffering, He showed us that it can mean something it can be redemptive it can be transformed it into something good, when it is united to His suffering. In Old Testament times (before Christ) suffering had no positive value. It was thought that when people suffered, it was a punishment from God. But Jesus changed all that. He gave suffering a new meaning.
Although He was God Himself, Christ went to the Cross willingly, and for a reason. It was His mission. By dying, He brought about the greatest “good” that ever was the salvation of mankind. We were on our way to destruction. By His death, however, He opened the gates to heaven, which had been closed after the original sin of Adam, and thus made a way for us.
Let us remember also that Christ said there is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend. He was showing us what love is capable of. There is a mysterious link between love and suffering. This does not mean that we should accept all suffering as good. By itself, suffering is never good. And it is never to be enjoyed, for then it would no longer be suffering.
When we find that suffering is unavoidable, however, we should not run away from it. Instead, run to the Cross. If we look long and deeply enough, we will not simply see a man hanging there with nails in his hands and feet. We will see a sign of love. It took the greatest love to suffer like that. Jesus did it because of love and for love. We can only imagine that He knew that whenever we witnessed suffering, it would have the power to transform us, change us, and maybe lead to even greater good in the world.
In his Apostolic Letter On Human Suffering, our Holy Father John Paul II explains that suffering “creates the possibility of rebuilding goodness in the subject who suffers. Suffering must serve for conversion, that is, for the rebuilding of goodness [love] in the subject, who can recognize the divine mercy in this call to repentance. The purpose of penance is to overcome evil, which under different forms lies dormant in man. Its purpose is also to strengthen goodness both in man himself and in his relationships with others and especially with God.”
Every time we gaze at a crucifix, we are led to remember what Christ did for us. Think, for a few moments, of something really wonderful that someone ever did for you. When that happened, your heart was moved with love and gratitude, was it not? What Jesus did for us cannot even be compared with that. He gave to us the possibility of eternal life, and that is what made Good Friday “good.”