Lent is over and today is Good Friday and I have the duty at the Medical Center that I work at. Yesterday I celebrated a Maundy Thursday Liturgy here, and today we had our Good Friday service. Since I am a Priest, but in a more Anglo-Catholic type church, I get to do the “Protestant” services. Both Maundy Thursday and Good Friday were very meaningful to me this year. It is the first time in a long time that I have had chapel responsibilities during Holy Week and good for me to be able to share in those sacramental acts. I make sure that like Bishop Blackie Ryan, that I look at the person receiving the sacrament and give them a smile. It may be one of the few good things that happens to them during the day or week.
In my previous posts about surviving Lent I noted how that I was going to try to be happy. I altered a few things to do this and found that instead of being an ordeal like past years that this Lent was not too bad. In fact with the exception of stuff that was PTSD related this was a pretty good Lent. I actually think that I had some spiritual growth. Kind of way cool that the Deity Herself would give that grace to me this year.
Getting back to today, Good Friday. For some people Good Friday is simply another day, even for those that observe it. It comes and goes, just a speed bump on the way to Easter so we can all get happy. But those for those who live in my world, that of the Intensive Care Unit and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Good Friday is a year round event.
How is that so? Well since you asked, let me tell you. Here we live in the constant shadow of life and death. We have flesh and blood people who suffer. People who find out suddenly that they have an illness that will kill them. They are people who face their own mortality in what often is a long and painful ordeal. Sometimes they face this alone and even if they have friends and family present may still feel very much alone. In fact, they may even feel God Forsaken. The cry of Jesus uttered from the Cross can be their own. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” For some this is an incredible burden, the pain which is not simple physical, but spiritual and emotional as well. Here at our medical center, and thousands of others, we live at the intersection of life, death and eternal life.
Today has been a busy day already, multiple calls and visits with people going through various ordeals, both patients and staff. We have a number of people on our wards who may be with Jesus by Easter Sunday. Many I have gotten to know over multiple stays here.
There are those also who spend this Good Friday like Jesus’ mother, and the others gathered with her at the foot of the Cross. These are the families and friends who can do nothing more than watch and pray, comforting their loved one and each other. There are those who patiently and lovingly care for people, the doctors, nurses, Corpsmen and technicians all hours of the day. There are some who think that medical professionals have an easy life. Some may, but those that I know do not. They are in a combat zone without the bullets knowing that every day that they come in to work that there is a good possibility of dealing with death, and certainly with the pain and suffering of those who feel forsaken.
Among the crisis there was the homecoming of a number of our Corpsmen returning from Iraq. There are babies being born and people getting well.
At the same time there is joy. There are those rays of hope where somehow beyond all expectation someone recovers. There are the patients who despite their suffering constantly look out for other patients and the staff. They have overcome by reaching out to care for others, and they radiate joy. There is also joy in seeing someone have a “good Christian death.” You know, the kind like the movies, where the dying person knows it is there time, gathers the family and friends around and gives them his or her blessing, shares stories, laughter and tears at the same time and when everyone is done, the Priest says a prayer, maybe the person is anointed, the Our Father is said and the person passes to the next world.
Today in the Good Friday Liturgy I had a short homily. And it focused on this understanding that God is with us. That God who entered time and space in the Incarnation is with us in life and in death. Good Friday is they way that God puts flesh to the words of the 23rd Psalm, “even though I walk though the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me.” Jesus enduring this death, is not a God who is distant or uncaring. He knows what it is to not only feel, but to be God Forsaken. The Cross is that portal by which we know God, the portal by which we come to know the mystery of the Trinity, the place where a simple Roman Officer, a Centurion gets what almost no one else gets. “Surely, this is the Son of God.”
Here at the hospital I will walk the halls, and spend my time in my ICUs, watching and waiting throughout the night. For many here, this Good Friday will not end tonight, but Easter will come.
Well I have eaten my pea soup and bread, taken my short break and time to get back out on the floor. Pray for all who labor tonight in hospitals, those who care for the sick and dying, those who deliver babies, those who maintain vigils in ICUs and await crisis in Emergency Rooms.
On Monday I’ll be doing the memorial service for a young 4th year medical student who was killed in a motorbike accident this week. He was just weeks from graduating and entering our Surgical internship program. He was a good officer and promising physician. Pray for me a sinner.