When Fear Meets Hope

In 1938, a young Spaniard traveled to Japan where, for more than a quarter century, he worked as a medic, teacher, and counselor. One date, however, divided those years: August 6, 1945. For on that morning, at 8:15 a.m., he was tending to his responsibilities in Hiroshima when a single B-29 airplane flew over the city and dropped a bomb that killed nearly 80,000 people and injured at least that many more.

This Spaniard’s name was Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., and almost immediately, he began to use his medical skills and compassion to minister to the tragically burned and frightened victims. Although he had nothing to do with the decision to bomb Hiroshima (and later, Nagasaki), he profoundly felt its impact. For Fr. Arrupe, that August morning provided an image of a frightened and disfigured world. Years later, as leader of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), he became known throughout the world as a man of hope, urging all who would listen to examine the roots of infection that cause such havoc and to tend to the wounds of our world according to our talents and opportunities.

At the beginning of his ministry to the Japanese people, I am certain that Fr. Arrupe could not have imagined that which transpired on that August day. Likewise, I am equally convinced that Jesus’ disciples could not have imagined that which unfolded before their eyes on that first Good Friday.

Let us consider the “career path” of Jesus’ original followers. For it was Jesus that called them from their ordinary lifestyles to join Him. Day by day, He taught them, formed them, and performed extraordinary feats (e.g., healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, and forgiving sins) in their midst and in the presence of the cynical religious leaders of His time who were unconvinced of the Truth being delivered to them by God himself.

Jesus also taught the apostles something they didn’t want to hear; namely, that the Son of Man would suffer and die. And this is precisely what they experienced on that first Good Friday.

But unlike Hiroshima, there was not massive death and destruction. Rather, they found themselves on the Via Dolorosa, a dusty road that would end in Jesus’ death—on a Cross. On the way, they witnessed their friend being beaten and scourged and subjected to humiliation by a crowd that appeared to have been assembled for a parade.

In the back of their minds, they must have remembered Jesus’ words:

"A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone, when he is fully taught will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40)

Nevertheless, when Jesus finally made it to Calvary, only one apostle (John) and the holy women remained. And they stood there until the end, until it was finished, until Jesus breathed His last.

For Christians, the Cross is always before us as a reminder. As St. Paul tells us:

“For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor 22:24)

Yes, the Cross is always before us. However, even in life’s disappointments and tragedies, we should never be afraid to join ourselves to it. For when we do, we shall find a hope so great we cannot describe its joy. For we shall have found Jesus— Our Friend, Our Lord, Our Savior!

In Fr. Arrupe’s case, on that August day 80 years ago, he met fear with hope. Through hope, he became Jesus’ eyes, hands, arms, and feet for the suffering masses. We, too, should never be afraid to ask Jesus how we might join our suffering to Him and His eternal sacrifice.

For on the darkest days of our lives, may we remember that hope always wins out over fear, and that every Good Friday is followed by a glorious Easter.

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