By Orlando Hernández
To many of us Good Friday always feels like a day of mourning. We remember how our beautiful Lord was cut down in the prime of His life. Part of us feels like we lost a true friend, family . Maybe we remember those we lost. How we buried them. How we grieved and yet the world went on as if nothing had happened, business as usual. I remember when I was a kid in Caracas, Venezuela in the 1950’s. On Good Friday the whole city would shut down: government, business, entertainment. The streets seemed empty. There was a silence everywhere. Even the few TV stations and the local movie houses would only show films about the life and the Passion of Christ, which I would find very scary.
And yet today, on Good Friday, in New York, most people are unaware. They are out trying to make a living. Tonight they’ll be out in the bright city at restaurants, clubs, bars, and theaters. So different from the way I feel. This poem, by W.H. Auden (maybe you know it) expresses some of my feelings about Good Friday :
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead,
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My moon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
My soul agrees with the feelings in this poem. But it also disagrees with its message. Love does last forever. Good can come out of suffering and loss. This is a message of the Passion : The Resurrection of life and of love. But I think about those apostles in the darkness of the Upper Room!
Their guilt, their desolation, their grief, their uncertainty. I think of Peter, my friend Peter, remembering his question (my frequent prayer to the Lord): “Master, to whom will we go? Where can we go, when You have the words of Eternal Life?” And now where is that Life?
I can think of so many friends who lost their loved ones in the last few weeks, the despair they feel. And those who feel abandoned in nursing homes, jails, and hospital beds, those who feel unloved by God, who have forgotten how to believe. I am reminded of this excerpt from “The Crucified God”, by Jörgen Monltmann: “Our faith begins at the point where atheists suppose that it must be at an end. Our faith begins with the bleakness and power which is the night of the cross, abandonment, temptation and doubt about every thing that exists! Our faith must be born where it is abandoned by all tangible reality. It must be born out of nothingness.” Only God can do this. And He does.
Again, I think about these apostles in fear and disbelief, at the edge of despair. But I believe that they could not have been totally deaf! Our Lord told them more than once that He would “Rise again”. They had seen His miracles. There must have been some hope against all hope in their hearts as they cowered in that dark Upper Room. Even I, after the benefit of so many graces and instruction, at times like this, I momentarily forget that our Lord Jesus resurrected full of glory, power and love. I truly believe that when you have experienced Jesus in your life, no matter how hard your faith in Him is buffeted by adversity, hope still remains… A hope that is His gift from the cross, which is fueled by His infinite Love.
Dear Lord. By the power of Your Cross awaken in us the certainty of Your Resurrection within our dark, troubled hearts. You live, you live in us. We are not alone. Let us rejoice in your indestructible Love. Give us the confidence to share this joy with others during this Easter season.