It was a sunny Good Friday in Tennessee (Laudare HQ), but at 3’oclock yesterday the world lost its Light. The one Hope that mankind had in one Man was stuffed out. And this Light that had been among men once shined a brilliant glow, but leading to that fateful hour it began to fade as it flickered towards its doom. Then, when the hour came, the world descended into a darkness not seen since before the creation of the universe, for the Son of God Himself, the Word which gave rise to all things, was murdered though He had done no wrong. In the brutal Passion and Death of Jesus was the encapsulation of every thing wrong in life. The Cross of His execution and the thorns crowned around His head were every thing unfair in this world. The spit and slanders which Our Lord had grown accustomed to were the cruelty of man’s inhumanity to man. Thus, the entire life of Jesus, born among suffering and dying in an undeserved shame, was the very problem of evil itself. Cries seeking an answer for such innocent and seemingly unreasonable suffering went without a response from any thing said to be Above while Jesus writhed in unbearable pain affixed to two planks of rugged wood. When Christ bowed His head going limp in a final defeat, evil and bad men won. Only in this moment could Nietzsche’s proclamation ever be true – God is dead.
Now, it’s a Holy Saturday in Tennessee. Once again it’s sunny, but this light I see as I peer out my window is a mirage. On this day the Christ of our lives was no longer present in His Body. Rather, His Body lied in a tomb while the Father lied in heaven. But had Jesus lied about what He claimed concerning Himself? I have no doubt that this was the question on the mind of the first believers and His Apostles on the day after Jesus died. Time must have lingered on insufferably while they waited for a magnificent something. They had little clue about what it would even look like. They caught a glimmer of it in Lazarus, but what about the Messiah? There must have been that utter gut-churning feeling of anxiety that we all feel while waiting on some type of crucial result resting in the pit of their hearts. In this solemn waiting, just like in His Passion and Death, is captured something that touches our frustration at the way things are. For, on a sunny day when the only Hope there ever was appears to be gone, how can merely the heat of day warm my soul? When evil and suffering has taken out all the good in the world in an onslaught of pain, what joy could anything left in it provide me? When the problem of evil seems to lack a proper resolution where do I go to get any answers? Many of us have been through exactly this moment of unwavering despair. Not restricted to just one manifestation, it takes many forms. It can be mental with doubt. It can be emotional with our failings and those of other Christians, especially among the leadership. It can be physical as in the poverty of health or wealth. And it can be spiritual as in the dryness of prayer and devotion. Not to mention how we can even experience a mix of some or all of these types of sufferings at one time. We are followers of the Christ who brought joy and relief to all those who chose to trust in Him during man’s encounter with the God made flesh two millennia ago, but where is our joy and relief on those certain rough days of our soul’s journey? There are times when we have Good Fridays, and we bear a cross. Afterwards, we might die an inner death of spirit; our light, and hope seems stuffed out. Meanwhile, the rest of our being endures a prolonged Holy Saturday, waiting and praying for a resurrection of our inner life. We reach out to God, but, as the Jews beheld the Man, we behold the silence. For the Good Fridays and Holy Saturdays of our lives, what are we to do?
Look to Him, and wait for Him.
This is what the first believer and Saints did, and so this is what we shall do as well.
I have thought this for a long time: Christianity has the absolute best response and remedy to the problem of evil and suffering. We have a God who became man and not only experienced the problem of evil, but this same God of the trenches encapsulated with His whole earthly life not only the problem itself but the solution to it – enduring trust, love, mercy, and a hope that just won’t die all rolled up into one. He did not shy away from suffering, but rather faced it like we all have to face it and found the reason for why life is worth living in the first place, to give it up for the sake of others. Jesus felt the pitch black of evil, death, and the apparent absence of God. We feel it to. However, within us, as in Jesus, is the undying conviction that good cannot die, and hope can never truly be all lost. That is why even in the midst of tragedy we send ourselves right in the thick of evil. That is why we are first responders careening towards the potential doom of fire, nature and man’s fallen wrath, or a building soon crashing to the earth in order to save the life endangered by it. That is why when we die we also send ourselves to the grieving in support. That is why when we as Christians our bombed at two different churches like the Copts of Egypt were at the start of this year’s Holy Week, we stand bravely in the face of evil screaming the Nicene Creed towards the horizon hiding those who want us dead. The human capacity for fighting for and towards the good will always be present because we were created by the Absolute and Everlasting God Who is Goodness Itself. What else but the Gospel of Christ ministers to this undeniable sense within the human heart with such truth stranger than fiction and more powerful than death? What else but the story of Christ has all of our stories contained in the Life and Death and Life Again of one Man? What else but the blood of Jesus flowing from the pages of the evangelium vitae can give us the breath of a new existence? What other god became man to die for the sins of all and continues to march their gospel across the face of the earth for 2000 years, which STILL enraptures the countless hearts of men and women with love and mission? Nothing else and no One else.
Even when God was on the earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, He did not do-away with either Good Fridays or Holy Saturdays, but instead went through both and promised to be with us when we go through ours. Some may cry “where is a good God is the midst of suffering,” but the one good God there is would want us to experience every kind of good there is. This includes the goods only found in relation to suffering, like mercy, forgiveness, and longsuffering. And all of this is for us to attain the greatest good of becoming the righteous sons and daughters of God. For, if it is true that “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21),” then we can replace “sin” with “the problem of evil” and see how it all comes together and work for the same purpose of making us Saints. We become Saints on our Good Fridays and Holy Saturdays precisely when we have nothing to cling to because every earthly thing means nothing to us anymore and yet still choose to love God because He is the only thing we have left when the pleasures of this world evanesce. When we chose the love of God in this life we chose that same love in the life to come after the Resurrection where we will still have our free will but love God so much that we won’t care to do anything else but love Him. And if Christianity, the Truth of God revealed to man, has the best response to the problem of evil, then Catholicism, the fullness of that same Truth, takes it a step further with its time-perfected teaching and stress upon the redemptive nature of suffering, in which earthly suffering, when united to the infinite value of Christ’s suffering, can help attain the grace needed for the remission of the sins of oneself and others. This imbues suffering with the mercy of God, granting it the greatest meaning of all. Thus, your Good Fridays and Holy Saturdays when pain is at its worst and God’s relief seems far off can be truly good and holy because of the souls you help save and the Saints you help make with the offering up of your own pangs of life’s sting. You might not ever know them in this life, but they will certainly greet you in heaven and love you forever after they are resurrected unto new life in glory like their Savior was. In this you accomplish the same meaning of life and suffering that Christ lived when He came to earth – to give both up for the love of God and the salvation of souls.
With all this in mind, we can sufficiently look and wait for God in the midst of our trials just as the Apostle waited for their Jesus to resurrect from the dead to be their Christ. It will still not be easy, however. Just like the mystery of the Resurrection, finding good in suffering can be hard at times to understand, but we must have faith in that same good we know is there somewhere waiting for us to find it and find God as a result. Just as sure as Sunday comes after Friday and Saturday, let us wait with confidence that His rising from the dead, and ours, will come after every Good Friday and Holy Saturday, even if a descent into hell itself is required before it comes.