Is It Easter, Good Friday, or Both?

Easter Sunday

Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” ~ John 20:11,18.

On Good Friday, a somber day of mourning and reflection, a few of us met at our church to clean the gardens up for Easter Morning. Our gardens needed a little T.L.C. (tender loving care).

When I arrived, I draped a black sheet around the horizontal beam of the cross in front of our church to remind ourselves and all passersby that it was Good Friday. As I stood at the cross, I bent down to pull some dead grass from a plant. As I stood up, my head barely grazed the metal cross.

My mind flashed back to several years ago when Connie and Gwen planted the garden around the crosses. Connie stood up and banged her head on the cross and started bleeding profusely. We found some clean cloths to stop the bleeding. Connie said, “I didn’t know gardening could be so dangerous.” The next day she showed up to do some gardening with a hard hat on.

I laughed and smiled at the memory. “It’s Good Friday,” I thought to myself. “This is a serious day to remember Jesus’ crucifixion and the pain in our lives and world.” Over the years though, I have noticed that joy and beauty sneak into Good Friday no matter how good my intentions may be.

Francis, Gwen, Jennifer, and Nicky were busy pulling weeds and telling stories. They were chuckling and smiling. I wondered if I should remind them that it was Good Friday, but they were having about as much fun as possible when you are pulling weeds.

Sometimes Easter Joy creeps into our Good Fridays. It is good that Good Friday and Easter have their own days, but we can’t really separate them; they go together like peanut butter and jelly. They are not mutually exclusive events because you can’t have one without the other.

That evening several of us met at Cedar Grove Cemetery to remember Jesus’ death as well as the passing of those we have loved deeply. We remembered Mother Mary standing at the foot of the cross. We remembered our Good Fridays. Nicole Trahan writes, “We cannot stand at the foot of another’s cross without the support of a loving, faithful community. We cannot do it alone. The pain is overwhelming” and only love can carry us through.

We prayed, we pondered, we cried, and we gave thanks for our Creator’s Spirit of love moving through us and those we have loved. We remembered the blessings that we continue to receive from sons, daughters, moms, fathers, and friends who passed before us.

As the sun dipped closer to the Sleeping Ute, someone said, “Look! Deer!” They trotted gayly across Pilcher’s hay field. “It’s Good Friday,” I thought. “Someone forgot to give them the memo.” After Jennifer sang, “It is well with my soul,” all of us talked and enjoyed the evensong gathering around us. It was a Good Friday, but it felt a little like Easter as well.

Today is finally Easter. “He is Risen!” We are free to sing “Hallelujah!” and “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow; because he lives, all fear is gone.”  Life is good and Hope abounds.

We find Mary Magdalene on that first Easter Morning weeping outside the tomb. She sees two angels dressed in Easter white. They ask Mary, “Why are you weeping?” (John 20:13). It is Easter. Everything is O.K.

Someone forgot to give Mary the memo or she did not read it, or she just didn’t understand. But Mary showed up and she is open to the present. Jesus shows up as well. Mary mistakes him for the gardener. (Note: I am pretty sure Jesus was around Friday while we worked in our church gardens. We just didn’t notice him, but we did laugh and share in his joy.)

Jesus asks Mary, “Why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Mary continues to weep and mourn. “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away” (John 20:15). It is Good Friday on Easter morning.

“With deep affection, Jesus pronounces her name: ‘Mary,’” writes Father Ron Rolheiser. In that precious moment, Mary’s fear and grief turn to joy. Christ knows her and loves her. She receives the memo, “Love is stronger than death.”

“All we have loved in our lives and been loved by are eternal and true,” says Richard Rohr. May we live into that love and into the joy of resurrection. Amen.

Blessings and peace,