As I write, we are entering the sacred days known as the Triduum. Looking back over the past forty, I am shocked at how fast they’ve gone. It was a hard Lent (most notably because of the sudden death of my grandfather) and consequently, a good one. Mercifully small in comparison to His, I received a taste of the loneliness, sorrow, and desertion that our Lord chose to experience during the forty days before His passion. Human loneliness and suffering is a part of life after the Fall, but He did not have to experience it – He chose to so that He might be with us in our sorrow, and give meaning to our suffering.
Reading Mark’s account of the Passion this morning, I was struck by this passage:
Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, ”Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross.” Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among themselves and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.”
The people mocked Him for His inability to help Himself. Yet, they did not realize that it was not inability, but choice that kept Him on the Cross. He stayed there, because He did not want to save Himself; he wanted to save us. The people who stood there mocking Him, the soldiers who crucified Him, me when I betray Him like Peter did, you when you desert Him in His hour of need.
I have always dreaded Good Friday – as a child it meant small meals and hours of quiet with a long service thrown in there…..all things that are anathema in a child’s mind. But about 6 years ago a friend of my family’s gave us a copy of his thesis that is now available as a book: Consoling the Heart of Jesus (by Fr. Mike Gaitley). I’ll never forget Good Friday that year; I was 21 years old, and home from college for a year, so was attending services with my family…..in an echo-ey church, I sat there…..when things came together, made sense to me. I always knew that, yes, our Lord came to suffer and die for me – but it left me hopelessly resigned to never being able to do anything in return for such an enormous gift. Therefore why bother even trying…how would my puny sacrifices help in any way the suffering He did all those years ago? However, Fr. Mike’s words spoke to me: “you don’t have to do anything stupendous, just be with our Lord during this time. Tell Him you want to walk this journey with Him, as He walked it for you 2000 years ago. That’s all.”
All of a sudden an immense burden was lifted from me. No, Good Friday did not surpass my birthday or Christmas as my favourite day of the year, but my fear was gone. I could now look forward in a certain way to the fact that – small and insignificant as I was – I could do something for our Lord. That was doable. Not a Herculean task, like martyrdom or giving up sweets for 40 days, but a simple one: giving myself and doing nothing. My friendship, my time to be with Him during His suffering: “Could you not watch one hour with me?” as Jesus so famously asked Peter….
I need to be reminded of the flame that lit my heart that year, because time and life tend to chip away at our once-earnest resolutions. Today, let us all be reminded of the Love that never has dwindled since that day when our sin nailed It to the cross. Let us each spend time with Him, in silence…. sitting there, being with Him while He suffers, prays and prepares for His Calvary. Because we know that when we go through ours He’ll be there….waiting, watching, lifting us up so that when the days of darkness pass, we too will experience the Joy of life anew.