Walking with ‘a Good Friday people’

| Deacon Mickey Friesen | April 4, 2019 | 0 Comments

“We are a Good Friday people!” That was the way Archbishop Samir Nassar described the faith of Christians living in Damascus, Syria, when he visited the archdiocese last November for the first time, as part of our deepening partnership relationship.

He came so that we might become better acquainted and explore ways to be in solidarity with one another.

He said, “For us, the holiest time of the year is Good Friday. It is the day that we carry the cross with Jesus and remember that he walks with us as we carry our many crosses. We are a Good Friday people because ours is a history of martyrs and persecutions for living our Catholic faith. The cross is never far from our experience in the Middle East.”

Today, Christians in Damascus face the cross of the aftermath of eight years of civil war. People feel trapped in a kind of limbo brought on by the continuing sanctions and blockade surrounding Syria. Christian families continue their exodus from Damascus and all of Syria. Those who remain are too old, too poor or too sick to leave. This makes Church life difficult to continue.

“This situation, where there is neither peace nor war in Syria, has become intolerable,” Archbishop Nassar said. “Reconstruction of damaged areas has not begun. Shortages of basic necessities have made life unbearable for the vulnerable, the children, the elderly and the homeless.”

In spite of this heavy cross, “The Church in Syria rests on the sacrifices of its martyrs, strengthened and encouraged by the fire of the Spirit and the light of the Gospel,” he said.

“We will continue to guard the faith of Peter and hold to the route which allows us to progress further along the road of salvation.”

HELP CHRISTIANS IN THE HOLY LANDThe annual Pontifical Good Friday Collection is taken up in parishes around the world to support the holy sites and ministry to Christians living in the Holy Land. Learn more about the collection at myfranciscan.org/good-friday.

For our brothers and sisters in Damascus, Good Friday faith means living in solidarity with Christians around the world. Archbishop Nassar told me that during Christmas last year, the youth of the parish prepared the Nativity scene for the cathedral church, but they chose not to put a roof on the manger. When the adults asked the young people why they did not include a roof, they said it represented the 13 million Syrian refugees who are now homeless and have no roof of their own. The child Jesus is with them, and they wanted to show their solidarity by keeping their manger without a roof, too.

The faith of Good Friday is the faith of hope and solidarity. Jesus entered into solidarity with our humanity and gave himself in love for us. His way of the cross gives meaning to those who suffer in our world. They do not walk alone.

The Stations of the Cross invite the Church to walk in solidarity with Jesus and all those who carry the cross in our day. Archbishop Nassar sent me his meditations on the stations for this Lent. They are truly reflections on Jesus’ walking with the people of Damascus.

One station that reaches out to us is the fifth station: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross. “Suffering welcomed in faith traces the way of salvation,” Archbishop Nassar wrote. “Lord, our families are left alone in their suffering and distress. They wait for a helping hand, a loving heart, a ‘Simon of Cyrene’ who you will put on their desert road of suffering. Amen.”

Like Simon, we can help Jesus carry the cross. During this season we can walk the way of the cross with Jesus who walks with those who carry a heavy cross daily. We can join in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Damascus who live Good Friday every day. On Good Friday, we join to offer support to Christians living in the Holy Land, including Damascus. The crucified Jesus is with them, and we can be with them also. Let us remember and support Christians in the Holy Land, like those in Damascus, on this Good Friday. This is the faith of a Good Friday people.

Deacon Friesen is director of the Center for Mission in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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Category: The Local Church