BELIEVE IT OR NOT, Fr J. began his sermon for the 3pm Good Friday service at Holy Cross just now with the same question that bugged me a few hours earlier, "Why is Good Friday good?"
Fr J. proceeded to answer his own question, "Maybe it's because a good man had died on a Friday." Then he gave a common Christian explanation for Jesus' death, somewhat similar to mine earlier, which he soon negated. He further explained (not verbatim), "This answer is not wrong, but it is not complete. It doesn't explain why Jesus has to die in such a brutal way. People don't get crucified for trying to love or save others. (Sounds like Andy Ho in his Straits Times commentary, Why Mel Gibson's Blood stirs so much Passion a few days ago!) And it's not as though God has nothing better to do than to send His Son to suffer and die.
"No, Jesus died on the cross because He has come to 'testify to the truth' -- the truth of who He is and who God is, that He is the Son of God and that people have to repent and stop sinning. The people around Him could not accept the truth, so they chose to crucify Him. To testify to the truth, Jesus is willing to embrace His cross. Are we?"
CHOSE TO ATTEND THE 3PM Good Friday service today because of one reason: For the past three years, i've noticed that it had always rained during the 3pm Good Friday service. In fact, when we come to the part of the liturgy where Jesus is about to breathe his last, there would invariably be lightning and thunder. One couldn't ask for more realistic special effects!
When i shared this with a Catholic neighbour S., she agreed and added, "It's been like this every year!" So, this year, whenever the subject of Jesus' Passion or Good Friday cropped up, i would share this new insight. Told so many people, including my mother and nephew E. Wondered whether the same would happen again this year. If it doesn't, how embarrassing! Still, God's not called God of surprises for nothing, right?
Left home for Holy Cross around 2.10pm. It was blazing hot. Upon reaching the church building, a man sitting at the entrance complained aloud to no one in particular, "They said it's going to rain at 3pm. But there's not a single cloud in the sky!" i walked on. Got into a pew near Mother Mary's shrine. Half an hour more to go. Yet, the whole church was almost fully packed with people.
How many came because they had heard that there'd be lightning and thunder? i prayed silently, "Lord, everything is in Your hands. If for some reason, You decide that thunder and lightning are unnecessary, then let Your will be done, not mine. i do hope though that there'll be. Told so many people. Surely, it's good for people to be aware of Your supernatural presence during Jesus' darkest hour, even up till today?"
Soon, the service began. An opening prayer, then a reading from Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Still bright sunny day. Psalm 31 in a song by John Michael Talbot. We all sang in response, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." Hauntingly beautiful. Then Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9. Then the gospel according to John 18:1-19:42. Still very bright. What thunder or lightning?
Then, Fr J. began to speak. As he came to the part, "No, Jesus died on the cross because He has come to 'testify to the truth'..." thunder seemed to rumble in the background. The sky seemed to be a little darker shade of blue. He continued speaking. A few more rumbles here and there. Not very loud or definitive. Was my imagination playing a trick on me? Soon, singing resumed. More rumbles of thunder. A few were louder.
Then it was time for veneration of the cross. Communion followed. When the service finally ended, i walked out of the church building into the open. Not a single familiar face in sight. It was drizzling so very lightly. A shower of blessings? Said three Hail Marys in front of our blessed mother's shrine. Then strolled back. About twenty minutes or so.
Upon entering home, asked my mother whether she had heard the thunder. She said, "Yes, truly amazing. It didn't really rain. Yet, around 3.50pm (our home clock is about ten minutes fast), thunder sounded almost continuously for about ten to fifteen minutes. Quite loud."
Why wasn't there any rain or lightning this year? Because of my big blabbermouth? God won't perform on cue or satisfy vain curiosity? He wanted to underscore this message of Fr J today: that "For this (Jesus) was born, and for this (He) came into the world, to testify to the truth" and that "Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to (His) voice" (John 18:37)?
What is your truth, Lord? Please grant me the grace to discern and to live your truth.
(See also Why Is Good Friday 'Good'?.)