Bishop reflects on ‘Good Friday’ controversy in Davenport


DAVENPORT — In his homily during the Good Friday service at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bishop Martin Amos reflected on the controversy in Davenport over what to call “Good Friday.”

He referred to a quote he saw on the Internet that read: “One week before the most solemn day in the Christian year, the city of Davenport, Iowa, removed Good Friday from its municipal calendar, setting off a storm of complaints from Christians and union members whose contracts give them that day off.”

The bishop observed the tension between “strong feelings that our Christian tradition is being eroded, and strong feelings about being sensitive in a pluralistic society.”

He didn’t plan to solve the dilemma or even to take sides, he told the congregation, but rather to celebrate the Catholic tradition of honoring this day as holy, as Good Friday.


“Isn’t that a strange name for today?” the bishop asked rhetorically. Some believe the name has evolved; that originally it was “God’s Friday.”

Still, it seems like a strange name, the bishop said. “While we celebrate the victory won for us, there is a sense of sadness, mourning and fasting. We tend to associate ‘good’ with ‘happy.’”

In Sweden, the people refer to “Long Friday,” recalling the long hours of Jesus’ agony on the cross, and in old Russia, the churches and public buildings were veiled in black.

“Whatever the name, it is ‘good’ as we look to the results, the fruits of Jesus’ death,” Bishop Amos said. “John’s story of the passion is not of a death march, but of a royal procession to the cross; John does not dwell on the pain and suffering of Jesus, but rather on the sovereign king who has overcome the world. Jesus does not need our sympathy because today is part of triduum — a celebration of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

“God so loved the world that the Friday on which the Son of God died for our salvation has become ‘Good’ Friday, our hope of future glory,” the bishop continued.

“There is a wonderful passage in the Old Testament Book of Joshua where Joshua says to his fellow Israelites: I don’t know about you, but as for me and my family, it is the Lord whom we will serve.

“I don’t know what the secular world will end up calling today, but for me and my family, it is ‘Good’ Friday — a sign of God’s love for me, calling for a response of love that goes out to God and to neighbor.

“God did indeed so love the world, that he gave us his only Son, that whoever believes in him may not die, but may have eternal life.”

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