Yes, today is Good Friday but what does that mean? Does it mean we have to be good? The state of goodness is about being kind, generous, honest, and helpful. Being ‘good’ is living with integrity and probity. Another way to say this is, ‘doing the right thing, the right way.’ But Good Friday is much more than being good.
Good Friday gives me an opportunity to reflect on my life and the world around me. But for many, Good Friday is only a holiday. A time away from work to rest and relax. Time to spend with family and friends. Time to celebrate life. But celebrating life in our COVID-19 environment is different to what we have experienced in the past.
There were times when we did not have to worry about where we would go for a holiday weekend. Life was more carefree. At least when I reflect on the changes COVID-19 has bought into our lives I admit that much is different now. I know of friends who do not want to risk going away for a holiday. We have been robbed of our carefree nature by a virus. Our lives are more troubled than they should be because of the pandemic.
Then there are others who in their state of trouble turn to God, to the church. Many Christians this Good Friday will meet and connect with others and reflect on what happened to Jesus around 2000 years ago. That is, the crucifixion of Jesus, and his death on Calvary. I am sure those Christians who gather in prayer this Good Friday will pray for those affected by the coronavirus.
As I reflect on the world around me this Good Friday, I realise how fortunate I am. But I am mindful that others are not as fortunate. There are millions who face fear and uncertainty because of the coronavirus. One of the unfortunate nations on my mind this ‘Good Friday’ is Brazil.
The nation of Brazil has the highest number of practicing Catholics in the world. But now it is also known for having the highest deaths from COVID-19 in a 24-hour period. The COVID-19 deaths in Brazil accounts for one-quarter of the worlds death. The nation is in mourning, hospitals are overwhelmed, and funerals are held at night to manage the demand.
When there is nothing more a person can do, when facing tragedy, many fall on their knees and pray. Pope Francis is praying for the Brazilian city of Manaus and the surrounding Amazon rainforest who are mostly affected by the coronavirus. Prayer might not always bring about change immediately but it is a source of comfort for those who are experiencing grief and coping with the loss of a loved one. Or the loss of hope for the future.
Two days ago, when masks in Queensland became mandatory, I wore a mask for the first-time when out shopping. Everyone was hidden behind their mask. I could not see the expressions of others, see them smile or smile at others. It was a different experience and one I hope does not continue for too long. Yet, even despite my mask wearing I know I am one of the fortunate ones.
The poem about masks (see below) is written by a Christian priest. I hope his reflection on masks provides comfort for those who need it the most this Good Friday.
Holy God, you see me, and you hear me.
Through my mask, you see if I smile or if I scowl.
Through my mask, you hear me if I whisper a brief prayer or mutter a muffled curse.
My friends don’t see or hear or know; nor do my family; nor my colleagues.
But you do.
This mask takes away power – the power of clear communication but also the possibility to infect. But it also grants a freedom to be with.
My smiles, my thoughts, my mumbles, though – these I know, but they are a greater mystery to others now.
But not to you, Lord. You see past my mask, you hear through it, you know.
But your mask, Lord, what about your mask? Who can see through your mask? Hear through it?
I cannot see if you smile or if you scowl.
I cannot hear if you whisper an answer to my prayer or brush off my curse.
I cannot sense if you are pleased with me or if you are waiting for me to do much better.
Can we all take off our masks, Lord? Put them away?
When the disease that moves us to mask our faces for safety fades away, will our eyes and our ears be stronger, better able to see and to hear the smiles and the frowns, the cries, and the whispers of those who fill our lives? Who make our lives worth living?
Will we see, Lord, that what we think of as your mask is really also our own, our inability to find you in the rush of our lives, our failure to see you in all the wonders you show us, our incapacity to hear your gentle voice in the tumult that surrounds us.
Can we know, Lord, that we put on many masks so we can cope, avoid, pretend, be acceptable? (What scar did the Phantom’s mask hide? “Who was that masked man?”)
Help us, Lord, to move beyond our masks. You are here for us to see and to hear. Help us. Let us take off our masks.
By Fr. Edward Schmidt S.J.