Posts Tagged ‘ Fr Richard John Neuhaus ’

It’s only Thursday

Something that I have noticed about myself is that, in recent years, I have made a deliberate attempt at making Lent meaningful.  Long ago, I stopped giving up chocolate for Lent (partly because it seemed so superficial, and partly because I really don’t eat much chocolate anyway – kind of like giving up smoking for someone who has never smoked).  Similarly, fast and abstinence have lost their meaning simply because food is not something I spend much time thinking about: I am very much of the “I eat to live” camp, and not at all of the “I live to eat” stripe.  Not eating meat on Friday?  So what?  I usually don’t anyway.

What I have felt is that trying to make Lent meaningful has indeed become a more fruitful period of preparation.  I spend more time in prayer.  I read more (I just this morning finished Fr Richard John Neuhaus’ “Death on a Friday Afternoon” – a good book anytime of the year, but especially appropriate during this time of year).

I woke up this morning thinking it was already Good Friday; then “it’s ‘only’ Thursday.”  Granted, a very special Thursday: the first day of the Triduum.  But, I very much want to spend even more time than I ever have focusing on Good Friday.  Exactly why is rather vague to me, except that it seems appropriate to do more than I ever have.

As one of those that carries a Rosary in my pocket, it is very easy for me to pray a Rosary.  Yes, there are specific Mysteries for designated days of the week; but I frequently find myself wanting to pray the Sorrowful Mysteries.  In a very strange way, I might say that the Sorrowful Mysteries are my “favorite”; so, I’ve spent a lot of time meditating on those.  And the first Sorrowful Mystery has always taken the bulk of my time.

Why did Jesus “weep” in the Garden?

At first, I thought it was the human Jesus that would have known the horrors of crucifixion – the Romans were famous for making examples of a few “miscreants” (their definition, of course), and it seems impossible to me that Jesus went to Jerusalem for Passover some 30 times and never saw someone hanging from a “tree” in pain that can only be described as indescribable.  It must be the thought of going thru that kind of pain that caused His tears.

Then it was the thought of all those souls that somehow didn’t get it.  I am incredulous that anyone could have seen, talked to, eaten with, even been with Jesus for three years and still didn’t get it.  To say nothing of all those souls that weren’t even close to Jesus geographically (say, people in Rome).  As Neil Diamond might say “for being done too soon” (which I have mentioned in these pages before).  It must have been the frustration that caused His tears.

This past week, my thoughts shifted to the possibility that His tears were caused by His resistance to temptation.  To me, there is ample reason to spend time with this possibility.  While in the Garden, His three closest friends fell asleep – He had to wake them three times.  They succumbed to the temptation of thinking sleep was more important than being with their friend.  Maybe the dinner they had and all the excitement that must have been part of the Passover festivities was just too much for them?  Maybe they didn’t resist to the point of shedding blood?

Then, there is Jesus floating the idea in His prayers that maybe the whole Passion thing might not happen at all – maybe that cup would pass Him by.  What do you think about that, Abba?  Maybe the temptation to cut and run caused His tears?  I’m thinking the whole temptation thing is fairly likely.

And then, in the closing pages of Fr Neuhaus’ work, I learned of how utterly alone Jesus was.

Why am I Roman Catholic?  Well, first and foremost, I do believe I am called by GOD to be a member of the body of His One, True Church.  And second, more on the level of the worm that I am, I just believe that the interpretation of the Bible that the Roman Catholic Church offers is the best – the closest, the most true (to say nothing of the longest analysis – something approaching 500 years longer than any other group –  and the largest corpus of writings).

And in Fr Neuhaus’s book, he points out that GOD spoke (so that others heard) to Jesus twice: at His Baptism and at His Transfiguration.  However, at no time during His Passion, did GOD speak to Jesus.  Yeah!  That’s right.  GOD is silent when Jesus needed Him the most.

Jesus had His own “dark night of the soul” at the very end; others lived to tell about it (e.g., St John of the Cross’ “Ascent of Mt Carmel,” and “Dark Night of the Soul”).  In any event, was Jesus crying because He felt utterly, totally and absolutely alone?

Perhaps the answer is: “almost.”  As in 99%.  Because there was still something – however small – that moved Him to pray.  If He was 100% convinced He was alone, prayer would have been pointless.

I’m still working on “What Good Friday means to me.”  I’m no longer hung up on the very idea of calling the day We Crucified Our Lord, “good.”  Looking at the clock, I have something less than 23 hours to spend on Good Friday, then it’s on to Saturday.  I suppose that could be “Holy Saturday,” but sitting here, I am thinking it is more like “Empty Saturday.”

Again to borrow from Fr Neuhaus, I don’t want to rush thru Good Friday.  I want to spend time with the Guy-I-never-met, who died for me.  I’m old fashioned enough to believe I owe Him that much.