Good Friday Reflection
Sister Esther Fangmann, Prioress
Henri Nouwen tells of a conversation he once had with a trapeze artist. He had watched their act and seen the artists moving through the air, flying and catching as elegant dancers. He asked him how such a dangerous act was done. The man replied, “As a flyer, I must have complete trust in my catcher. The public might think that I am the great star of the trapeze, but the real star is ...my catcher. He has to be there for me with split-second precision and grabs me out of the air as I come to him in the long jump.”
Nouwen then asked how that worked. The man answered, “The secret is that the flyer does nothing, and the catcher does everything. When I fly to the catcher, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely over the apron behind the catch bar. I do nothing. The worst thing the flyer can do is to try to catch the catcher. (I am not supposed to catch him. It’s his task to catch me.) A flyer must fly, and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him.”
Today, Good Friday, we are reminded again of what Jesus went through. Jesus is faced with being the flyer. He agonizes; on the one hand, he knows the Father will catch him; on the other hand, he must face both the coming pain and the struggle to actually believe he will be caught. That is what death is—the faith of knowing we will be caught. That is really what all our life is today—staying with the struggle of seeking God and believing we will, now and in the end, be caught by the loving Father.
As we commemorate Christ’ suffering and death, we remember that, as followers of Christ, we too are called to be flyers. We are called to swing out into open air from the safety of our platforms. A very real example of this is our sisters in Torreon. Because of the violence from the drug cartel and collusion with many in the military, they are faced daily with threats to their lives. Sr. Marianna said they still telephone each other to let each other know they are leaving from one house to go to another—which is less than a block apart. But what struck me most in her sharing was a statement that went— “This is what has been placed before us. It is the way it is.” These sisters are doing exactly what Christ did on the Cross- faced what was before him – becoming a flyer knowing the catcher Christ would indeed catch him no matter what happens. Each day in so many ways, we are called to swing out into open air, sometimes when we are dealing with big decisions. But each day calls us to other flights. How often do we swing back and forth, holding tight to the catch bar, afraid of letting go, afraid we will not be caught, and so will fall? What will happen if we let go, if we agree to do something asked of us that we’re not keen on doing, of reconciling with a Sister who has caused us great pain, of helping someone even though we think it is a waste of time.
Yet we are afraid, even though, day after day, as we pray the office and as we listen to and do Lectio with Scripture, we hear the innumerable promises of God, our Eternal “Catcher,” the assurances of His love and care. The psalms are filled with so many expressions of this. I especially like Psalm 136 with its repetition of “Everlasting is His Love.” Just yesterday we heard in John’s gospel, “He had loved his own in this world and would show his love for them to the end.” (John 13: 1) And during retreat, we were reminded of God’s promises: “I am with you, I love you, trust me,” to name only a few.
What is there to fear? Christ trusted the Father and gave Himself up for us. Today as we kiss the Cross, let us renew our trust in Christ, believing that, when we let go, He will catch us, and we will land safely. For this, He lived and died. And He stands not on a platform, but on the Cross, with arms opened wide to catch us flyers. What better embrace!