Where would we be without this week?
Indeed, these days of darkness, denial, deceit and death?
Where would we be without this more than tragic end to a more than beautiful life? This week when we remember innocence repaid with insolence, purity repaid by impunity, and angelic kindness repaid by demonic cruelty?
Where would we be without the sad supper, the gloomy garden, the blood soaked sweat, the slumber of fair-weather friends, the betraying kiss, the rude arrest, the burning ropes, and fading uproar and final disappearance into the dark?
Where would we be without the mock trial, the kicking, the shouting, and the slapping; the stench of a damp dungeon, the lashes of lead tipped leather, the screaming pain of thorns piercing tender scalp, and noble chiseled features of a handsome man swollen and soaked with blood, sweat, and saliva?
Where would we be without the raw rudeness and obscene baseness – the barking of soldiers, the laughter of elders, the cries of a crowd - the prodding, poking, pulling, pushing, kicking, stripping, stretching, pounding, piercing, arching; the pain, the pain, the pain?
Where would we be if the Innocent One was rewarded with due honor and the blessings of a lone, well-lived life? What if the God-Man lived to be ninety, his hair smooth and silver, and his ice-eyes clear as crystal? Instead of rejection he was readily esteemed by all, and instead of a rough blood soaked cross he died in a soft sweet-scented bed. Instead of cynical shouts his final hours were ushered in with heartfelt words and stifled sobs.
How big the Bible would be! The Gospels would not be simple testimonies but tomes filled with so many the stories! After so many years , no doubt the entire world would have heard, and told, and retold his tales, recited his rhymes, recounted his riddles, and who knows, perhaps even sang his songs – each sentence soaked with wisdom and insight from another world.
How many people would have been fed and cured and converted! How many would be taught by prayers and parables more sublime than the Our Father and the lost son! How many kingdoms would have been conquered not by sword and fire but by the lips and lives of countless disciples spread throughout the world!
Yes, where would we be without this week?
Indeed, a week which ends in victory but only because it is week of defeat.
It is a week of injustice, of ingratitude, of betrayal and abandonment. It is a week where justice is turned upside-down and inside out. Where fear and suspicion and vengeance have there way and the pure and innocent are punished. A week when the powerful have their say and their way, while the poor cling to the end of a very long golden stick.
Where would we be without this week? Here’s a question answered with one word: “Alone”. All of us would be left alone. Turning here and there, looking up and inside, inside and out, none of us would find God - the only One who could help us; not to escape our pain or problems but endure them. Only His hands can turn a hunk of black coal into a huge glistening diamond.
If God didn’t go through this week – indeed, this life - where would we go for solace and hope? And what about those who lives are playing out the Passion of the Christ? Of whom do I speak? The abandoned orphan, the rejected spouse, the exile fleeing their war-weary village, the completely innocent accused and publicly shamed, the abused – physically, emotionally, mentally, sexually, economically – who suffer injustice in silence, the elderly scammed of their savings, the imprisoned punished for the crime of following their conscience, the enslaved and sold for the pleasure of wicked and wealthy men, those berated, belittled, and beheaded for their faith, the immigrant maligned for seeking a better life, the cancer victim driving home from the doctor’s with a numbing prognosis, the unexpected and unwanted and Down syndrome child condemned to death before birth.
Where would we – would these - be without this week? Yes. All of us would not feel – but be – alone and abandoned not only by man, but by God.
So here we are in a week we call holy. It is a one week which be speaks of tragedy but becomes a triumph. The One who claimed to come from above did not leave us to bear life’s pain without a final purpose. In His life He embraced this world’s countless and endless stories of betrayal, deceit and defeat. While he left us an example of how to go through suffering, he did not leave us alone, for he is with us. “I will be with You always”, the Lord tells us, “to the end”.
For all those who not only believe in Him, but live in Him, every sad story – however long and tragic – has its last page, and every painful life takes its final breath. While the pure of heart may suffer hell here, they will enjoy haven forever. And those who attempt to make their heaven here will be deprived of it in eternity.
This is why we call this “Good Friday” because this day tells us that even in our darkest moments the Light of the world is with us. We are not alone. Because he walked our pain-filled path, we can walk it, because we do not walk alone.
Thank You, Lord, for this wonderful week. Where would we be without it?
+ Fr. Glenn Sudano, CFR
Good Friday, 2016