When I was growing up as a child in our family home, birthdays were a BIG DEAL. I received lots of attention, with birthday signs and balloons, and my parents allowed me to select the menu for breakfast and dinner, as well as dessert. Many relatives would send cards and it was one of two times a year my parents would spoil us with gifts. I felt special. I felt loved. I looked forward to the date of my birthday as soon as Christmas was over! But just as soon as it was over, I had to wait an entire year for that special day again.
A few years ago, my birthday fell on Good Friday. My inner child was disappointed. “So much for a birthday”, I thought, “fasting with definitely no cake.” I knew in my head that I could celebrate a few days later, but to me it wasn’t the same because it wasn’t the actual date of my birth. I realized I had become so attached to a day on the calendar. However, as that particular day wore on, and certainly over the years since, I came to realize (1) I am pretty self-absorbed and lacking in faith, (2) God had provided more graces on that day than I could have ever imagined, and (3) I am special and so very loved, all the time, not just on my birthday. That year, my birthday landed on the day of the most significant outpouring of Love of all time.
I am amazed at how God has opened my eyes to the sacrifice and significance of Good Friday over the years. Previously, as a child and young person, I would dread all the solemnness of that particular day of the Triduum. The day seemed to drag on and on, and I wanted to rush through it, avoid the focus on suffering, and get through the “boring” services at church. I wanted to jump ahead to the joy (and chocolate) of Easter Sunday. But now I have learned so much more about Good Friday. During each celebration of Mass, we proclaim the death of our Lord (1 Cor 11: 26). Why? Because by His cross we were redeemed. Good Friday is the reconciling of us back to the Father through His Son. Good Friday is good news for all of us: God’s infinite mercy is made visible through the crucifixion. A great, mysterious Love. Over these last few years in particular, in the arms of our Blessed Mama, I have been graced with an awareness of my misery. Yes, graced, because in seeing who I am, standing in truth about my weaknesses and sinfulness, I also see the magnitude of God’s love. I see more deeply the gift of Christ’s sacrifice, who died because He loves me and wants so much for me. I am more grateful. I am more in awe. As I grow in deeper understanding of who I am versus WHO IS (Jn 8:58) , I am more able to recognize my need for a Redeemer as well as how very real is His desire for me to find my home in His heart. I see that I am BOTH a miserable sinner AND His most beloved child.
Looking at Christ nailed on the Cross,
you will comprehend more easily
how great an abyss of evil your sins really are.
Christ’s suffering most fully reflects this abyss.
Standing at the foot of the Cross and adoring the One
Who took upon Himself all your sins,
you will come to know all the more fully these two abysses –
the abyss of your sin
and the abyss of God’s love toward you….
Because prayer at the foot of the Cross
the vision of one’s sinfulness
as well as faith in the love of God.
Your evil was conquered and erased by virtue of the
redemptive sacrifice of Christ.
Through the power of the One whose love for you has no limits,
you were redeemed.
In adoring the Cross, you will realize this ever more fully.
(S.C. Biela, In the Arms of Mary, 2nd ed, rev. [Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005], 13, 14).
Through the power of the One whose love for me has no limits, I was redeemed. It was a Happy Birthday, indeed.