April 19, 2019
by Larry Gillick, S.J.
Creighton University's Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
click here for photo and information about the writer

Good Friday of the Lord's Passion
Lectionary: 40

Isaiah 52:13--53:12
Psalms 31:2, 6, 12-13,15-16, 17, 25
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
John 18:1--19:42

Praying with the Sacred Triduum

Preparing for Good Friday

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer


In the second Chapter of Genesis, which is the second account of creation, we read about two different trees planted in the “garden”.  One is the tree of “life” and the other,  the tree of the “knowledge of good and evil”. We read further in the next chapter (verse 22) that the “sin” was Adam’s taking on from God, the authority or prerogative of deciding what is “good” or “evil”.  Two trees then, one of “life” and the other of “death”.

On Good Friday we watch, listen and receive. In the fifth chapter of Romans, we reflect with Paul about the “old Adam” and the “new Adam”.  Disobedience symbolized by a garden, a tree and an act of eating. Paul prays with the “new Adam”, Who consummates a life of listening, the root meaning of obedience. The new Adam arrived in the second garden, faces a tree and swallows His life-giving death. The two trees of the “first garden’ are embraced as one tree. The tree of life offers immortality. The tree of the knowledge of “good and evil” now becomes the tree of “life” That for which the old Adam reached and grasped for himself, is now hanging on the tree of “life” offered to us for our receiving. This is what is very good about Good Friday.

This past Sunday we heard Matthew’s account of the events leading to this garden. Today we hear from the Gospel of John. There are many dramatic events in all four Gospels. When praying in preparation for the liturgy of this day, it might be helpful to stand, watch and listen to just one or other single picture or sound. If we can patiently receive what is going on as Jesus prays in the garden, or talks with Pilate, or stumbles, or cries out from His Tree, we will eventually receive what is going on in the other events. Jesus is listening to who He is! His whole life was one act of hearing patiently Who He was called to be, sent to be, the Listener!

He could listen to the poor, the sick, the invitations, the challenges, the threats and the judgements against Him. He believed what He had heard at His Baptism and lived gratefully as He offered life-truths to all. Some accepted what they heard and others seemed to be threatened. The prayer for us these days is one of poverty. There is not much we can do. We are like visitors to a very sick friend in the hospital who can only lie there with shallow breathing. We can do so little to help or change things. We might straighten the bedding, or pour fresh water from a convenient pitcher, but mainly, we experience the poverty of love.  

Isn’t there something new which we can find and ponder? Isn’t there some way to avoid facing our individual poverty? No we cannot if we are really present to what is offered in today’s readings and prayers.  At the end of today’s liturgy, which is not a Eucharistic celebration, we do receive the Body of Christ, quietly, expressing our poverty as we extend the empty palm of our hand and receive the personal grace of encouragement which Jesus extends toward us from the Tree of Life. He is Good to us, for us, with us as we say “yes” to Him, “yes” to His call, and “yes” to the “Very good” with which the Creator God saw us way back then and does also right now! It is a very Good Friday.

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