“He is carrying on his back the entire weight of the drama.”
His name is Gunter Lubitz and his agony is a particular and specific suffering I will never know. If his first name is not familiar, maybe over the past two weeks you have heard his last name: Lubitz. Gunter is the father of the Germanwings pilot who apparently deliberately crashed his plane into the French Alps on March 24th. The horrific act not only killed 149 innocent people, but also shattered so many families, including Lubitz’ own.
It is hard for me even to imagine what Gunter, age 60, is going through. He and his wife Ursula went to the little village near where the plane went down to pray with the families of the other victims. It wasn’t until they got to the memorial service that they discovered the truth of the tragedy, that it was their son, their beloved son, who purposely flew the plane into the ground. Even considering that Lubitz had serious mental problems, even with the notion that the parents may have been unaware that he was still piloting airplanes, Gunter’s torment and heartbreak must be crushing. It is hard for me to even conceive of that cruel anguish Gunter Lubitz must be enduring.
He spoke with the mayor of a small community after he discovered the brutal truth. The mayor said: “His life has broken down. He is a man whose life is in ruins. I felt incredibly sorry for him as he expressed all his emotion, he expressed his emotion because he has lost a loved one, but also because his son is perhaps the cause of all this tragedy. I have great respect for this man who despite himself is at the centre of a tragedy that he did not seek. He is carrying on his back the entire weight of the drama.”
How do you handle this torture? How do you deal with this torment? How do you begin to even face this profound and overwhelming sadness?
That is what this day, this amazing day is all about.
Good Friday reminds us, in shocking and even scandalous terms, that our God, the source of all being, the foundation of all life, understands our deepest sorrow. The author of the letters to the Hebrews boldly declares: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.” The scandal of the Cross is that Jesus knows our hurt, he knows our sadness, he knows our agony, he knows our sinfulness and even our rejection of him and all that is good. And that connection, that bond is the exact point where the healing of our souls can occur. As we gaze upon the Cross of Christ, we discover a God who does not stand aloof from our sorry human condition. Instead, we have a Savior who knows what we know, who feels what we feel, who understands precisely our particular grief. Fr. Bill may not know Gunter’s loss, but God knows.
In the main Catholic church in Montebaur, the town where the Lubitz’s live, there is a book of remembrances. In it, various people have written notes of support for that poor family. One note said: “The family of the disaster-pilot lost their son, too, and has the right to grief. No one can judge here.” Another couple wrote: “We wish the victims’ families and especially the parents of the co-pilot a lot of strength and God bless. May such a terrible tragedy never happen again.”
This Good Friday I will be praying for Gunter and Ursula. I pray that they may know the truth of this day: He does not have to carry on his back the entire weight of the drama. That has already been done, for him, for his wife, for all of us…
* Kudos and thanks to Fr. Kevin Schmittgens, the author of this wonderful homily, which I so shamelessly stole this Good Friday…