Last Good Friday, a friend of mine joined a group of Catholics holding an all-day prayer vigil in front of a Planned Parenthood abortion mill. A priest led them in praying rosaries for an end to abortion.
The site was on a busy urban street. Lots of people streamed by, both on foot and in vehicles. As expected, the prayer group stirred up some strong reactions from passing cars and pedestrians. Some honked their approval or gave the thumbs-up sign. Others jeered or taunted.
Among the most vocal reactions witnessed that day, one stood out. As the group walked and prayed, a man on foot approached the priest. “You pedophile,” he sneered. “You have no right to be here. Why don’t you go back to wherever it is you came from and leave kids alone?”
After the man left, my friend, having regained his composure, approached Father and apologized for the incident, saying he was sorry the priest had to be singled out for such anger.
Father replied: “No, don’t apologize. I consider it a privilege to experience our Lord’s suffering as he did on Good Friday.”
My friend stood before me as he recounted the holy priest’s reply, mouth open, eyes wide. He couldn’t believe how quick the priest was to find real beauty in such an ugly situation.
We live in a day in which pleasure and comfort are held up as the only sensible aims of life. Legions of men and women work their fingers to the bone, sometimes sacrificing a meaningful family life along the way, just so they can retire into a life of total ease a few years earlier.
Our consumer culture keeps us in a perpetual state of desire for “the good life.” Food advertisements promise us that we “deserve” their delicious products. Women are encouraged to splurge on expensive cosmetics because they’re “worth it.” Men are goaded into buying fancy new cars in order to prove they’ve “arrived.”
It’s no wonder we have a hard time equating joy and glory with suffering, misunderstanding and pain.
Alas, it is always wrong for a Christian to despair. And, sure enough, signs abound that all is not lost.
For example, Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ has taken in more than $370 million in the United States alone, making it the highest-grossing R-rated film ever made and the ninth-highest-grossing film of all time, period. Millions of Christians around the world believe it’s the best Holy Week meditation ever set to celluloid.
Remember the scene in which Mary runs to console Jesus as he buckles under the crushing weight of the cross? He turns, lifts his face to his mother’s and exclaims: “See, Mother, I make all things new!”
How was it that Our Lord could choose faith, hope and love even while enduring unfathomable suffering on behalf of our sin-sickened world?
The answer is found in the words he spoke to his Father back in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before: “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Jesus knew that, if he just did what God the Father had asked, all would be well for all eternity — no matter how bleak things looked (and felt) here and now on earth.
So, too, the priest being reviled while doing God’s will at the abortion mill last Good Friday.
So, too, you and me the rest of our lives?
Joy Wambeke writes from
St. Paul, Minnesota.