Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion Readings of the Day
“All is gift.”
St. Ignatius of Loyola is known for saying this, and Ignatian spirituality carries this message forward, inviting us to find God in all things. Everything around us, both beauty and suffering, can speak of God.
At first this seems untrue. How can suffering be a gift? What is “good” about Good Friday? How can hardship, sickness, and even death be good?
I have wrestled with this “all is gift” statement ever since going through the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises five years ago—doubting it at one moment, and the next moment wanting to have it tattooed on my wrist. When I went through the Exercises in daily life, my husband and I were already two years into an infertility diagnosis. I began the nine-month retreat journey hoping and praying that something would be birthed in and through me—be it a baby or something else. At the end of the nine months, there was no baby to speak of, but a new life in Christ was emerging from sharing my suffering with Him and helping Jesus to carry His own.
My husband’s and my desire to become parents by adoption was also birthed in the process, and two months after finishing the Exercises, we met with our colleague at Catholic Charities to learn more about domestic adoption. Though we did not go through Catholic Charities for our own adoption process, we felt carried and supported by that community. The intense suffering—longing and grief—of infertility gave birth to our adoption journey, which led us to become the parents of fraternal boy-girl twins two-and-a-half years ago. We added a third miracle to our family nine months ago when, after almost six years of unexplained infertility, our son, Jonah, was born. Truly, all is gift. Our cross of infertility lead us to Amat and Zoë, and then to Jonah. Our suffering became our greatest joy.
Our first reading today reminds us that “By his wounds, we were healed” (Isaiah 53:5)—again that paradox of healing through hardship. God’s passion and death is the hallway to salvation. Good Friday is the great threshold moment. It is good—it is gift—because of what it opens us to on the other side of the threshold.
The suffering of our family members, friends, clients, and neighbors in need is not “good” in and of its own. Though it might make us feel good or give value to our work when we respond to a need, their struggle is not a “gift” by itself. Suffering is only good because God—who is all good—enters into our suffering with us and, through it, transforms us to be more like Him.
Don’t get me wrong: we are, indeed, Easter people. And I hope we have that Paschal Joy in all we do in service of others. But we are first Good Friday people. We sit at the foot of the cross. We take up our own cross. We suffer and beg for salvation. And it is through these Good Friday moments that we are transformed and redeemed until, truly, all is gift.
After four years at Catholic Charities of Tennessee in Nashville, Aimee Shelide Mayer works as a consultant to the Catholic Labor Network, the CCHD Education & Outreach team at the USCCB, and other non-profits, churches, and schools around issues of social justice and spiritual formation. She is in training to be certified in Ignatian Spiritual Direction and a member of St. Henry Catholic Church in Nashville, TN, where she lives with her husband, Collen, their cockapoo, Jayber, and three kids under three years old.