Lenten Inspirations by Fulton Sheen
Good Friday: Enemies too optimistic
The enemies of Our Blessed Lord were too optimistic on Good Friday. Thanks to mass propaganda and organized demonstrations before a Governor’s palace, they convinced a time-saving politician that “we shall not have this man rule over us.” When finally, they reduced Him to a common criminal, they hurled four taunts at him on the Cross, boasts about every victory and His defeat. First, He said that He would “destroy the Temple, and then rebuild it;” but the Temple was still standing as a reproach to His boastfulness. Second, “He saved others, but now could not save Himself.” Third, He said He was a King, but He was proven to be a mock King with a crown of thorns for a diadem, a nail for a scepter, blood for royal purple, a crucifixion for a coronation. Finally, the claim that He was the Son of God was now a stupid lie, for if He was, why did not God deliver Him?
When He was taken down from the Cross, Joseph of Arimathea boldly goes to Pilate to ask for the body of Our Lord. The Greek word which the Gospel says Joseph used was Soma, which is the word of respect for a body. Pilate was too optimistic that power of Caesar would no longer be challenged, and he told Joseph that he would give him not the soma, but the proma, which means cadaver or rubbish. The final optimism of the enemies was the setting of the guards, not to prevent the Resurrection, but to prevent the apostles from stealing the body and saying He had risen from the dead. Finally, they rolled a great stone in front of His tomb. This was the final victory! He who had called Himself “the Rock,” is now rockbound in a tomb- never to rise again. Even before Neizche wrote his blasphemous lines, the enemies had scored their apparent victory; for God is dead.
Good Friday: Friends too pessimistic
On the other hand, the friends of the Our Lord were too pessimistic and despairing. Though they had heard Our Lord say that He would rise from the dead after being in the belly of the earth for three days, they still did not believe. The women go to the grave on Easter morning with spices they had prepared, not to greet a Risen Lord, but to anoint a dead body. Not in the least expecting the Resurrection, they ask: “Who will roll us back to the stone from the door of the sepulcher?” Mary Magdalene herself, who had risen from the deadness of sin into the newness of Divine Life, and who had heard Our Lord say that He was the Resurrection and the Life, came also with spices and weeping, not with joy in anticipation of a Resurrection, but with sorrow, for the Beloved was dead.
When Magdalene finds the tomb empty, instead of believing that He has risen, she says to the Angel who asks her why she weeps: “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they laid Him.” When Our Lord finally appears before her in the garden, she does not even look up. Seeing a figure whom she mistakes for a gardener, she calls Our Lord “sir,” and asks: “If you have taken Him, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” She is not prepared to face one who conquers death, but rather to find the corpse and re-bury it. Finally, Our Lord speaks to her, and she recognized Him saying now, not “sir” but Rabboni- Master! She runs to tell Peter and John saying: “I have seen the Lord.” But they, hearing it, do not believe it, saying it is a woman’s tale.
Despair of Disciples
Apparently the one thing that the apostles and lovers of Our Blessed Lord were not expecting was His Resurrection from the dead, and when He appeared in their midst, He said to rebuke their fears: “Why are you troubled and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”
Well indeed may Our Lord say the same to us: Why are you troubled in heart, despairing and cast down? Are you seeking security, rather than the happiness of the Resurrection? Shall we believe that God reserves all the mourning for His sons and all the joys for His enemies? Are we condemned to hang our harps upon willows, and sing nothing but doleful dirges, while the children of Satan are to laugh with gladness of heart? No, rather we have received not the spirit of bondage to fear, but the spirit of adoption where we cry out: “Father.” Fear not! Realize that He who went into the grave is Truth Itself, and Truth crushed to earth will rise again…
If there is no Resurrection, but Christ is dead, one cannot believe either in the Goodness of God, or the goodness of man. But if He Who took the worst the world had to offer and conquered it, then evil shall never be victorious again.