The Leeds Lent Prayer Diary this year focused on where we see compassion in Leeds. The diary featured two rich reflections that we’d hate for you to miss. Read Joseph Cortis and Paul Coleman’s thoughts on the brutality of Good Friday and our encounter with the risen Jesus on Easter morning.


Good Friday

When we read one of the Passion accounts, we follow the contours of the darkest day in history. God has come into the world, and has manifested His great love in the flesh; yet that flesh has been subject to all kinds of mistreatment, humiliation, scourging, torture and death, ultimately because of the rejection of that love.

We know all too well that the brutality that killed Our Lord is not new, and there are obvious, tangible events of just that kind manifesting themselves in our time to a world that is keenly watching. Not to mention the countless other places where it has or does go on, with little or no interest raised such as those in abusive relationships, those struggling with addiction, those struggling to feed their families. As Christians, we are supposed to make a connection with this day, a day we bring to mind on other Fridays throughout the year, so that we don’t forget to unite the sufferings of our Lord and the sufferings of violence and injustice in our world in our prayers and, of course, in our actions to build a different and better world.

But in the midst of such scenes on this day, there is a deeply personal question for each of us, as we hear the contours of the darkest day unfold before us. You see, it would be a mistake to allow this drama unfold but yet remain an observer, or to think that it is simply to do with what is happening a few steps or even thousand miles away from us. Good Friday is about each and every human person, and it comes with a challenge: God has come into the world and manifested His great love in the flesh – so how have you and I rejected that love?

If we read the great words of the Passion, with our eyes wide open, and with hearts that seek to learn, we may just get an insight as to what form that rejection takes in our own lives. It’s a daring question to ask, because it drags us right into the heart of the story as a protagonist and not an observer, puts us at risk of seeing glimpses of what we are like at our worst, and for that to be laid bare before God.

But this is precisely what God is doing to each of us on this day, because he wants us to see the shape of our struggles to accept his love, so that through his struggles, his wounds and his death we can be healed.

That is why we call today Good Friday. Today the God of all creation tells us that those who care for the poor, those who take a stand against injustice, those who seek to bring peace and yet suffer, are acceptable to God. These are the ones who will share the life of the victorious Risen Lord.

Rev. Dr. Joseph D Cortis
Leeds Cathedral


Easter Sunday

The story of Easter Sunday leads us to joy, to thoughts of Jesus’ victory over death and sin, to images of a stone rolled away and an empty tomb. Yet I suspect our experience of Easter is very different from that of the disciples. For the disciples, that first encounter with the resurrected Jesus must have stirred mixed emotions ranging from disbelief and fear, through to joy and wonder. We know that they were in hiding and were marginalised from mainstream community, and that the resurrection did not immediately change that.

For me, the person most evident in the story of Easter Sunday told in the Gospel of John, is Mary Magdalene. Mary, who after Simon Peter and the others had left, stayed outside the empty tomb, in tears, distraught at the disappearance of Jesus’ body. This grief was so strong that it overcame her fear and took her back to the tomb. In his compassion, Jesus does not leave her lost in grief but instead calls her by name. This seems a small detail but is so important to the way in which Christ relates to all those who are marginalised.

So I wonder how Mary was affected by the seemingly simple act of being called by her name. I suspect that there is also something important in the way in which Jesus spoke her name. The reading from John does not say anything about the tone of Jesus’ voice. Yet, the way in which someone says your name is important. The tone used when talking to or about someone speaks volumes about the way in which they are perceived and valued. In this encounter between the risen Christ and Mary Magdalene, the use of her name, and way in which it was spoken, turned her sadness into joy. It meant that she was recognised and valued as an individual, as someone with her own hopes, dreams and passions. Someone who was important to Jesus. In some ways Mary could be said to represent each and every person who has ever existed. The risen Christ calls each and every one of us by name with love and compassion.

Mary was the first person Jesus spoke to after the resurrection. She was not the most powerful or the most influential of his followers, but she was the one who most needed his compassion. As with all his ministry on Earth, here too Jesus went first to the margins. Today, as we celebrate the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, how can we show compassion to those on the margins?

This morning let us pray that the risen Christ will help us reflect his compassion in the way we speak to and about those who are marginalised. Amen.

Paul Coleman
Faith at the Margins Lead, Leeds Church Institute