For my ways are not your ways, and my thoughts are not your thoughts, says the Lord. Those memorable words from the Prophet Isaiah (55:8) may have been on the mind of the English Catholic archbishop, William Bernard Ullathorne, when, on a Good Friday centuries ago, he said “…whoever embraces the Cross with an open heart finds there the explanation of a thousand mysteries.”
I don’t know about you, but each Good Friday, as the Passion narrative is read, I find myself wondering: As Jesus was crucified, would I have remained at the foot of the Cross, to the bitter end, in courageous solidarity with our Lord? Or, would I have joined the majority who fled the scene and drifted anonymously into the crowd, fearful of identifying themselves as one of His followers? Sadly, my guess is that I would have joined the crowd.
Each Good Friday, the one reality that unfolds upon us is that every day of our lives, we saints and sinners are overshadowed by Jesus’ Holy Cross. A great mystery, don’t you think?
In a powerful way, at our baptism, the Easter candle is present to remind us that we have been joined to Jesus’ Paschal mystery; that is, to His very life, passion, death, and resurrection! From that day forward, Our Lord accompanies us as we traverse the zigs-and-zags of our earthly pilgrimage. And on the day of our funeral, that blessed candle is lit once more. As it overshadows our mortal remains, it reminds our loved ones to be not afraid and find strength and consolation in the hope that we have through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. For through Him and in Him, death is but a passage to eternal life.
My maternal grandmother, who suffered greatly during her life, once called me during a dark moment in mine. She told me: “I know this is hard, but as time passes, in God’s time, you will recognize that the good Lord has blessed you—abundantly.” Many years later, her wisdom has rung true.
When we take to heart Isaiah’s words, that God is God and we are not, we come to understand that, in God’s time, even the saddest moments of our lives work themselves out. In our losing of someone or something, God reveals a reality within us that we never thought existed. We become more loving. We become more caring. We become better listeners. Through our own tragedies, God, in His time, finds ways to use us so that we may do good for others. For as St. Paul reminds us: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God…” (Romans 8:28)
Nevertheless, on that first Good Friday, those present at Calvary must have felt that evil had won. For through human eyes, Jesus’ defeat and public humiliation was on full display—for all to see. But, in reality, Jesus had defeated the powers and authorities of evil, disarming them.
Good Friday was God’s time. Good Friday was the time He had appointed for a Divine reset of the human race! As he prayed the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum (April 22, 2011), Pope Benedict XVI invited those pilgrims to view the unfolding of Good Friday not through human eyes, but rather, through God’s own eyes.
Let us look more closely at that man crucified between earth and heaven. Let us contemplate Him more intently, and we will realize that the cross is not the banner of the victory of death, sin and evil, but rather the luminous sign of love, of God’s immense love, of something that we could never have asked, imagined or expected: God bent down over us, He lowered Himself, even to the darkest corner of our lives, in order to stretch out His hand and draw us to Himself, to bring us all the way to Himself.
On that first Good Friday, Jesus took upon Himself the sin of the world and crushed it— so that we might live! For He taught us there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)
And in three short days, in God’s time, Jesus revealed His resurrected glory and invited each of us to share in it.