In 1938, a young Spaniard traveled to Japan where he worked as a medic, teacher, and counselor for more than a quarter of a century. One date, however, would forever divide those years: August 6, 1945. For at 8:15 a.m. in the morning, he was tending to his responsibilities in Hiroshima when a single B-29 airplane flew over the city and dropped the bomb that killed nearly 80,000 people and injured at least that many more.
The Spaniard’s name was Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J. Almost immediately, he began to use his medical skill and compassion to minister to the tragically burned and frightened victims. Although he had nothing to do with the decision to bomb Hiroshima (and Nagasaki), he felt its impact profoundly. For him, that August morning provided an image of a frightened and disfigured world. Years later, as religious leader of the worldwide Society of Jesus (Jesuits), he became known throughout the world as a man of hope, urging each of us to examine the roots of infection that cause such havoc and to tend to the wounds of our world according to our talents and opportunities. (Adapted from Faith and Justice: Living as Christians on a Small Planet, Sr. Margaret Betz, St. Mary’s Press, 1980, pp. 54)
At the beginning of his ministry to the Japanese people, I am certain that Fr. Arrupe could not have imagined that which occurred on that August day. Likewise, I am equally convinced that Jesus’ disciples could not have imagined the events that would unfold before their eyes on that original Good Friday.
Let us consider the career path of the early disciples. Called from their ordinary lifestyles, they join themselves to Jesus of Nazareth. Day by day, He teaches them, forms them, and performs extraordinary feats in their midst. As Jesus confronts the cynical religious leaders of His time, they are paralyzed by the Truth. The disciples witness this. In small and large crowds, Jesus provides eternal teachings. The disciples witness this. Jesus heals the sick, restores hearing to the deaf, and bestows sight on the blind. He even forgives sin. And the disciples witness this, too! And if we remember, Jesus tells them that the Son of Man will be required to suffer and die. And while this is not what the disciples want to hear, this is precisely what they are treated to on Good Friday.
But unlike Hiroshima, there is not massive death and destruction. Rather, they find themselves on the Via Dolorosa, a dusty road that will end in death, death on a Cross. And they see this God-man who has been beaten and scourged. They see this God-man subjected to the jeers of the crowd that has assembled as though for a parade. In the back of their minds, they remember what Jesus told them:
A disciple is not above his teacher, but every one, when he is fully taught will be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40)
Out of fear, they flee. But for those who stay and follow Jesus to the Cross, they receive the mystery and hope that flows from the One who hung from it. In our lives, the Cross is always before us, as a reminder. In no uncertain terms, St. Paul exhorts us:
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Cor 22:24)
Yes, the Cross is always before us. But even in life’s disappointments and tragedies, we should be not afraid to join ourselves to it. And, with God’s grace, may we carry it bravely. And when we do, we shall find a hope so great that we cannot even describe its joy, for we shall have found Jesus.
In Fr. Arrupe’s case, he met fear with hope. And through that hope, he became Jesus’ eyes, hands, arms, and feet for the suffering masses. For us, too, we should always ask Jesus how we might join our suffering to His; and, in doing so, also join ourselves to His eternal sacrifice. For even on the darkest of days, in faith, we should remember that every Good Friday is followed by an Easter.