Today is Good Friday. Jesus’ body has been taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb. The tomb has been sealed, and now we wait. There’s not much else we can do as Good Friday comes to a close. I think that’s one reason why Good Friday is so difficult for us. We know that Easter is just around the corner, and we know that when Easter comes, all of the suffering of Good Friday will be redeemed. It will somehow make sense. But as Good Friday comes to a close, there’s no resolution to the many difficult things that we experience in Jesus’ Passion.
And we certainly do experience a lot of difficult things in His Passion. We see our Lord and Savior mocked, beaten, and rejected. We see Him betrayed by one of His closest friends, denied by another, and abandoned by almost all of them. We see Him facing the crowds of people, people whom He loved, and people He came to save, only to have them shout, “Crucify Him.” And we see Him nailed to the Cross, left to die like a common criminal, until at last He says, “It is finished,” and hands over His spirit. And then we see Him laid in the tomb, and as Good Friday draws to a close, it does not look like much has changed around Him.
All of this would be difficult enough if Jesus were just some historical figure, but it’s even more sobering because we know that we’re part of the story. We know that we are a part of the crowds that shouted, “Crucify Him.” We know that it’s our sins that nailed Him to the Cross. And so we want Good Friday to be over, so that we can get to Easter Sunday. Because we know that, just as the prophet Isaiah says in our first reading, “It was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured … He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins … He was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suffering … one of those from whom people hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem.”
That’s hard for us to bear, and so we look ahead to Easter Sunday, because that’s when we get to see Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled: “Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many … Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty.”
But are we supposed to look past Good Friday like that? Is that what Christian hope means? Yes, we know that Easter is just days away; but what about the times when we encounter suffering in our lives, and we don’t know exactly how long it’s going to last, or how bad it’s going to get, or what redemption will look like for us? What does Christian hope look like when the Cross becomes real in our lives?
Several years ago, I talked with a student from another university who had been a part of something called a “homeless immersion.” The idea was that these students would spend a few days living on the streets among the homeless so that they would get a better understanding of what it’s like to be homeless. They were very idealistic as they began, but they got a quick dose of reality when the first homeless man they met heard what they were doing and shook his head, saying, “You will never know what it’s like to be homeless, because you know exactly when this will end for you. I don’t, and that makes all the difference.”
Sometimes the hardest sufferings for us to endure are the times when we’re powerless to fix them and we simply have to wait in hope without knowing how long it will take. Simply waiting in hope can be the hardest thing for us to do – just ask anyone who has ever sat by the bedside of a loved one with a serious illness – and yet sometimes that’s exactly what Jesus asks us to do.
As He approached His Passion, Jesus’ Apostles had already left everything to follow Him, and they were willing to die for Him, but that’s not what He asked them to do. He didn’t ask them to stand up to the Romans and defend Him. He simply asked them to be with Him during His suffering, to walk with Him as He carried His cross, and to stand beside His Mother at the foot of the cross. Except for John, they couldn’t do it. They were willing to do anything for Him, but to simply wait in hope was just too hard. Maybe they felt that they wouldn’t be doing anything if they just waited in hope, but who would look at Mary standing at the foot of the cross and think that she wasn’t doing anything for her Son? She was doing exactly what He needed her to do, enduring His suffering while still hoping in the resurrection, even if she wasn’t entirely sure what it would look like.
Even though Jesus had told His followers that He would rise on the third day, no one seemed entirely sure what that meant as Good Friday came to a close. The Apostles locked themselves in a room and hid. Even the women who had been faithful right until the end seemed surprised when they got to the tomb on Easter Sunday and found the stone had been rolled away. To wait in hope as Good Friday came to a close was to hope in the midst of suffering and uncertainty.
That is the same kind of hope that each of us is called to have. It’s easy to hope when we know that Easter Sunday is just days away. But each of us will encounter the cross in our lives or in the lives of people we love, and we won’t always know how long that suffering will last, or how it will be resolved. There will be times when we can’t fix it, and we’ll simply have to wait in hope. We can do that, because we know that from the worst suffering humanity has ever known, Jesus brought forth the greatest blessing that the world has ever seen. That’s what we’ll celebrate in a couple of days when Easter gets here.
But for now, it’s still Good Friday. Jesus’ body has been taken down from the cross, the tomb has been sealed, and we wait, because that’s all we can do. But we do not wait like those without hope, because our hope is firmly rooted in the cross of Christ.
Fr. Steve Lacroix, C.S.C., is the Director of Old College Undergraduate Seminary. Prior to his role forming our seminarians, he was Associate Pastor at Christ the King Parish in South Bend, Ind. He shared with us this Good Friday homily, which he gave at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, as part of a Holy Week series of homilies on the Spes Unica Blog. Read other homilies and reflections by Holy Cross priests and brothers.