This year, thanks to the coronavirus, I will not be able to experience one of my favorite moments in the church calendar: Good Friday. I love Easter, with its bright colors and signs of spring, the celebration of a concept on which rests the entire Christian faith: resurrection. And yet sometimes we Christians rush too quickly past Good Friday, especially when the gospel writers devoted enormous space in the sacred texts to the ugly scene of Jesus dying an unjust and shameful death on a Roman cross.
This moment we are in, in a week when fatalities from COVID-19 are expected to rise dramatically, at what the surgeon general has called “our generation’s Pearl Harbor,” we need to linger longer, even if from our living rooms, at the message of Good Friday.
In normal times (remember those?), the end of life is not something we like to dwell on, but now, as the stench of death surrounds us, as frozen trucks parked outside hospitals serve as overflow morgues, as funeral directors prepare for a volume of work they never anticipated, as an invisible virus makes its menacing journey through our cities, we need to think about death. On Good Friday there are no pastel eggs or bright dresses, no Peeps or perfume. There is only a somber, sober reflection on the agony of the most unjust death in the history of the world. The Christian story says that, in God’s Providence, Jesus, both human and divine, was put to death by the very creatures that he formed with his hands and into whom he breathed the breath of life.