Hey, where are you going? It’s not Easter, yet.
“Stay a while. Do not hurry by the cross on your way to Easter joy, for we know the risen Lord only through Christ and him crucified.” (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, Death on a Friday Afternoon).
image: The Lamentation, Peter Paul Rubens c. 1609
Jason Hall reminds us that, “It is common, and entirely appropriate, for us to see our own spiritual defeats and victories as little Good Fridays and Easter Sundays…The truth of the matter, however, is that we spend much of our lives living little Holy Saturdays.”
We all have a tendency to become impatient in times of trial. To want to get our Good Fridays over with and rush to Easter Sunday. But the Cross, as, again, Fr. Neuhaus said, is the “path of discipleship for those who follow the risen Lord.” St. Therese notes that,
“for His intimate friends, for His Mother, He works no miracles before having tried their faith. Did He not allow Lazarus to die even after Martha and Mary told Him he was sick (John 11:3)? At the wedding of Cana when the Blessed Virgin asked Jesus to come to the help of the head of the house, didn’t He answer her that His hour had not yet come (John 2:4)? But after the trial what a reward! The water was changed into wine…Lazarus was raised from the dead!” (Story of a Soul, p. 142)
Sometimes it is necessary for us to remain in the dark for a while in order to finally be able to see and appreciate the Light.
Some of the Church’s greatest saints experienced long periods of darkness, where they did not feel the presence of God. In a similar way, all of us, to varying degrees, will inevitably face some challenges to our faith and feel as though God has abandoned us. But it is precisely during those trials of faith when God, in fact, is closest to us.
As Pope Francis beautifully put it in his Holy Week audience, “The night becomes darker in fact before the morning begins, before the light begins. God intervenes in the darkest moment and resuscitates.” This is the “narrow gate” that many avoid because it can be so painful. But we do not travel alone.
“Take up your cross and follow me,” says the Lord, “in the world you will have trouble, but fear not, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).” Just as Christ was “made perfect” by what he suffered and was able to Rise again and be seated at God’s right hand, so shall we be sanctified through our own sufferings united to the Cross of Christ, and share in His eternal glory in heaven.
So, as we prepare for tomorrow’s great Feast, as we boil the eggs and thaw out the ham, let’s not move on from the Cross, just yet. Let’s spend some time with our Sorrowful Mother, who was dedicated to us and us to her at the foot of the Cross, and learn to have patience with the Lord when he does not immediately (or ever in this life) take away our pain. For:
“In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” -1 Peter 1:6-7