Michael Louis Serafin-Wells

 
 

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Michael speaking on Good Friday

Invited to compose and deliver a reflection for Good Friday services at NYC's historic West End Collegiate Church yesterday, here are Michael's remarks in full:

 

GOOD FRIDAY ADDRESS

"Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last." - Luke 23:46

I want to talk for a moment, just a moment, about this final, the seventh of Christ’s last utterances from the cross and why it gives me such pause, such hope, is so very resonant. Indeed, a basis for faith itself.

Isn’t it interesting that the sixth utterance is not the last? “It is finished", Christ says. But it isn’t finished. Not quite.

In a way, all six of Christ’s last utterances prior are informed by this final one. "Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit."

Acceptance. In the darkest hour what mortal eyes - mortal - can only see as the darkest fate. Yet… "Into your hands".

How much, how very much we can never know - mortal, merely mortal - of our own lives, our own loss, our own unknowable fates - but only trust in God, that He knows. That He will put things right. That we must simply endure.

Suffering, cruelty, injustice. All unknowable. All so seemingly unendurable that even Jesus cries out in anguish, "Why hath thou forsaken me?"

But that is not the last word. "Into your hands".

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, his last known writing before his death, imprisoned in Rome he says this: “Always be sober. Endure suffering. Do the work of an evangelist. Carry out your ministry fully.”  

Paul is speaking to a young acolyte. Encouraging him to diligently spread the Gospel but don’t we feel the full weight of his words, if we let them fill our own hearts? Endure suffering. Carry out your ministry fully. Do your work. There is meaning there. You live still for a reason, however unknowable. Carry out your ministry. Keep the faith.

It’s not always easy. We like to think, maybe it’s even an American thing more quintessentially than any other culture, that our best days always lie ahead. That’s a beautiful sentiment, a indefatigably hopeful one, full of poetry and promise but it’s not always true. Not for everyone. Some of us can’t find that anymore. Some of us are broken. Some of us long just to be taken - And having said this, He breathed his last - The beautiful life that was, we can only long for.

I lost the love of my life, my sweetheart, my partner, my soulmate, my true love- Summer was her name - some years ago. She passed away from traumatic brain injuries sustained after a tragic accident. I knelt at her side that night and stood holding her hand in the ICU for ten days after. She never recovered consciousness. She was 31. She was my life. She’s why I’m here.

Some months later, still very worried that I might harm myself, Summer’s best friend, Danya, said something extraordinary to me. I had already made a solemn promise to Mike & Linda - Summer’s beautiful parents - but she wanted to make sure. She said: “If you do that (take your own life), you will never find her.”

That thought stopped me in my tracks. I asked Danya what spiritual beliefs she had that led her to say that. She didn’t really have any. But it didn’t matter. Sometimes something is so resonant its source doesn’t matter. It drills down and grounds itself in faith for you on its own.

I can’t know why my girl was taken. I can’t know why I remain. But I also can’t know how she ever found me - Summer liked to say that, that she found me. Isn't that something of miracle - the holiest of them - in itself? How can I believe that God would lead us to one another - two halves of the same soul - and not intend we should find each other again? Over and over. That this is merely preface, a merely mortal manifestation of the eternal yet to come. Into your hands.

I can’t say that I don’t long for the moment I pass. I miss my girl. I pray each night to wake in some celestial arrivals lounge, just past the escalators, step outside and see Summer pulling up to the curb (somehow The Holy Father has made manifest her battered, quite earthly, 2005 blue Prius) maneuvering into a space - the designated Kiss and Ride for the newly ascended - leaping into my arms, asking me to drive and telling me in rush everything I need to know about The Forever.

I long for that day.
But I must not bring it on.
"Into your hands".
Not only at that hour when I breathe my last and may join her, but at all times.
"Into your hands".
May I carry out your will, as my ministry, fully.
Keep the faith.
"Into your hands, I commend my spirit." Always.
"Into your hands."