There was nothing good about the first Good Friday. We now call it “good” only because we’ve read the “spoilers” about the happy ending.
But that’s not how it was for the first disciples. Or for Jesus. (Or for us in real life). They thought that Friday was the end. Total catastrophe. Public humiliation. Crushing betrayal. Shattered hopes. Excruciating pain. Utter failure.
Neither Jesus nor his followers thought it would end this way: All of his work for the Reign of God. For the inclusive welcome of the outcast and the stranger. For the radical message of abundant mercy for all without exception. It wasn’t supposed to end in spectacular, public, crushing defeat.
There was nothing good about that first Good Friday.
I think of this as I remember when I thought, when I still sometimes think, that my work for racial justice and sexual inclusion is for nothing. I don’t recall the specific catalyst, but I remember when I poured out my frustration and pain—my heartbreak at the rejection I felt from my bishop and some fellow priests—to my spiritual director. She listened patiently and compassionately. And then softly asked,“How much is your integrity worth to you?”
The question seared me. It’s become implanted deep within my soul. It keeps me going when I see no positive outcome for my efforts, when hostile emails flood my inbox, when accusations of “disturbing the faithful” and “causing division” follow from my advocacy. My integrity gives me no other choice. Taking an easier path would do violence to who I am—a price I am unwilling to pay.
I believe that conviction sustained Jesus during that first Good Friday before it became “good.” He could act in no other way without betraying himself. The cross is the price of integrity.