I do not pray for success - Good Friday

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“I do not pray for success …”
Good Friday

Why did it come to this? What went wrong?
The Gospels tell us of the crowds assembling in their thousands to listen to Jesus teach. Clearly they were spellbound by this man from Nazareth. They left their farms and fishing villages and stayed with him for days at a time, even forgetting about the need for food.

They not only listened to him but became his followers, his disciples. They wanted to embrace a way of life that he advocated. They were inspired and saw new hope and new purpose for their lives in what he was saying. They wanted to place themselves and their lives under his guidance and direction. The number of disciples grew, while he would eventually name 12 as his close disciples there were so many more. At one point he could send out 72 in pairs to preach and heal. There was also a group of faithful women who followed him everywhere.

As he went around Galilee he healed many people. People experienced the extraordinary things he did – driving out demons, healing lepers, even raising people from the dead. They witnessed him feed thousands from five loaves and two fish. They were amazed at what they were witnessing. They had never seen anything like this before.

One can imagine that he was the topic of conversation among women collecting water at the well, or men gathered for trading or talking at the city gates. One can imagine children quizzing their parents at the family meal about this man from Nazareth. Was he a prophet? Was he the Messiah? One can imagine all sorts of theories and explanations about him being the subject of countless conversations.

People knew he was an extraordinary man. They knew the power of God was operating in him. They knew something out of the ordinary was happening.

Yet it all turned pear shaped. The crowds that cried “Hosanna” were now crying out, “Crucify him”. How quickly it all changed. No one could have predicted this extraordinary change of events. One who was loved, admired and devoutly followed now become one who was insulted and scorned, even as he was dying in a most excruciating way. His closest disciples lost heart and abandoned him, hiding in fear and confusion. As he hung on the cross for his final hours only a few women, including his mother, and one disciple, stood there faithful to him to the last, but numbed by what had befallen him and overcome with grief and disbelief.

How did it all go so wrong, so fast? Was it a complete failure?

To succeed in life is something important to us all. We all hope for a successful life. There are indicators we naturally use to determine our degree of success. We could all identify some signs that our life has been worthwhile. For example: we would like to be loved not hated, we would like to be respected not scorned, we would like to be able to see some good fruits from our labours, we would like to feel that we have made some contribution.

As Christ hung there dying all seems to have been lost. There were no tangible indicators that his life had been a success.  No wonder he would cry out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” In the darkness of the moment it seemed that all had failed.

There was only one aspect to his life that remained intact: he had been faithful to what his Father had asked of him. Even though every part of him cried out against what was to befall him and he would plead in the garden, “Father, if it is possible let this cup pass me by”, he submitted, he accepted, he surrendered to what was being asked of him. He was faithful to what was being asked of him. He was faithful.

His final words, “Into your hands I commend my spirit”, were all that was left. There was nothing of earthly comfort. There was only darkness. Jesus entrusted himself into the hands of his Father.

What is a successful life? What is a worthwhile life?

Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “I do not pray for success, I ask for faithfulness”.

In the end what is important: is it that we have been successful and can point to signs of our success? This is naturally tempting. We all want to have indicators that our life has been worthwhile.

When we look upon the cross we see something else. Mother Teresa is right – it is more important to be faithful. It is doing what is right. It is pursuing the good. It is holding to the truth. It is being faithful to God. This is what counts.
In the end it is how God judges us and our life and not how the world judges us. It is not the obituary or the eulogy that finally counts, but what God says to us as we stand before the Judgement Seat. It is to God that we must render the final account of our lives. It is his assessment of us that matters.

Even if all looks human failure, it may well be that it is spiritually fruitful. This is not to say that the darkness will disappear, but that in the midst of darkness our eyes are fixed on God and not on this world. As Jesus looked to the heavens from the cross his focus was on his Father. All his trust was in his Father, indeed everything else had been stripped away.

“Lord Jesus, I want to be faithful. Help me to be faithful as you were faithful. May I not simply seek human achievement but give me the courage to pursue what is true and right and good. Amen”.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Friday, 3 April 2015