Reflection for Good Friday

by Sister Mary Elizabeth Schweiger

Mary, Mother of the Poor Parish was located by a railroad track in the inner city of San Salvador where the poverty was severe.  Having the privilege of going there in 1989 was life-changing and opened my heart and eyes in ways that I could not have anticipated. Never had I experienced such poverty. 

 People lived in little huts often made of grass and mud, and a metal roof provided some protection from the elements.  Many of the families did not have running water and slept on a simple rug that covered a dirt floor.  Many family members lived together, and they often begged for food.  One woman, whose husband was killed in the war, would go daily to the dump, find old baby bottles, wash them in the river and sell them at the market so she could feed her family.  There was a small dirty stream that flowed through the area which served as their sewer system.  It was primarily a community of women and children because most of the men had died fighting in the war or had disappeared.

Since it was during Lent, one of our prayers was to join the parish community in their Friday stations of the cross.  It did not take place in a church. It was a solemn procession, led by a cross through the little village, going from one simple home to another. 

The stations, proudly prepared by the women outside their huts, were a simple small table or log, covered with a small cloth with a religious symbol placed on it.  Sometimes it was a statue of Mary, or a simple cross or a small used candle.  

We walked from hut to hut and would stop to pray and to reflect on a station of the cross.  The prayers were led by an old man, a woman, and a child speaking through a megaphone so that all could hear.  The role of the pastor, Father Daniel, was to carry the megaphone, lead our journey and help people read a simple reflection.  

Yes, while I had never before experienced such poverty, at the same time, never before had I experienced such faith! I truly felt the presence of Jesus and that the sufferings and pain of this community were certainly part of the cross on which Jesus died.  It was not a private devotion; it was communal.  They literally carried one another’s crosses, burdens, and sorrows.  

The passion and death of Jesus took on new meaning for me.  I remember when I returned, I felt I needed to cry, to weep, to daily mourn, because I knew that the United States was contributing to the poverty and the oppression that was going on 

in their little village. It was our country that was providing the weapons, the guns for this war, and these people were bearing the cross of our greed and power.  

Good Friday is about this harsh reality.  Jesus embraced his death on the cross due to our sins and all the sufferings and pain that we likewise suffer.  Dying for us and 

for our sins is the ultimate act of LOVE.

Today and year after year, Good Friday invites us to come together as believers, to lay down our burdens and sorrows, to acknowledge and take ownership of injustices and selfishness, all the sins of the world and lay them at the foot of the cross.  We are here for one another.  Richard Rohr refers to Jesus’s body on the cross as “an icon of utter divine solidarity with our pain and our problems…. our transformative image for the soul.” Good Friday calls us into deeper relationship with God. God is in it with us!

We do not live in the abject poverty of our Salvadorian brothers and sisters, but today is a day like no other in which we are called to be acutely mindful of the pain and suffering that continues throughout the world.  This is evident in the formal intercessions that we will move into shortly.  We will pray for the church, for Pope Francis, all bishops, priests, deacons and the whole of the faithful.  Our intercessions will also include catechumens and the unity of all Christians. We will pray for Jewish people and all who do not believe.  Our prayers include those in public office, the people in Ukraine, the Holy Land, Haiti and Sudan and all those in need.  In our unspoken intercessions, we will also include women and children who are suffering from the effects of war, natural disasters, abuse, starvation, and homelessness. This list could go on and on. 

As a pastoral minister at Holy Name Parish in KCK, I experienced our weak humanity being united with that of Jesus at a Good Friday Service.  We had a big cross that was used for the veneration.  One dad came forth with his 6-year-old daughter.  She approached the cross, looked up at the height, touched it and then gently and reverently kissed it. She then turned and watched her dad do likewise.  It was very inspiring for me to watch.  

After the veneration of the cross, her dad was a eucharistic minister.  He was very tall and stood on a step in the sanctuary.  Little Mary Beth got in line, even though she had not made her first communion, came up to her dad, looked up at him and then gently and reverently kissed his knee (which was at her level) and returned to her place.

What a powerful moment for me as I reflected that our bodies too are one with Jesus on the cross and need to be reverenced. Good Friday is about Jesus embracing all of us in our pain and sinfulness as a community.  Mary Beth reverenced her dad because he held the place of Jesus.

As we come to the cross this afternoon as a community of believers, let us embrace one another’s sorrows and pain as we unite them with Jesus on the cross.   The story does not end here.  Let us live in hope for what lies ahead.  We look forward to celebrating as a community the mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus, where there will be no more sorrow or pain.  Easter celebrates the ultimate gift of Jesus to us, his unconditional love.


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