Good Friday is the darkest day in history, but it is also a day of hope. God has been crucified, but He will rise before long. We know that he will soon rise, but today is a day of solemn grief. The Savior of the World has been handed over to men to be scourged and killed.
We hear the culmination of the Suffering Servant songs in Isaiah’s prophecies. Jesus is “crushed for our sins, pierced for our offenses”. We hear his cry in the Psalm: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” The Son of God experiences the depths of loss, ridicule, and pain. He takes on the weight of our sins.
But this suffering is not all darkness: it bears fruit. Not simply in the sense that it is the occasion for Jesus to show His glory. Christ’s suffering itself is fruitful: “Because of his affliction he shall see light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear” (Isaiah 53:11, my emphasis).
What does this mean? We know that there is a purpose in suffering, but how do we understand that suffering itself can be fruitful, regardless of the result? This is one of the greatest mysteries of our Faith, and it is placed before us on Good Friday.
Jesus Christ freely accepted His Passion, knowing the pain that it would cause Him. He endured the harshest treatment, never losing His peace and never complaining. He knew that He would endure the greatest suffering of all — great because of the pain, infinitely greater because of the sacrilege.
Our Lord did this of His own free will, even in His fully human will, firmly resolving to be conformed to His divine will in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew full well that He would endure great suffering, and He also knew that it was this that would best atone for the sins of man. If a true man suffered the penalty of sin with the infinite merit of God, the curse would be broken. Our sin, though its guilt can be forgiven, nevertheless merits divine punishment. The suffering itself pays the price.
This is one key truth of suffering. Our suffering is a participation in the Cross. Of course, we need to know what exactly the suffering of Christ on the Cross was meant to accomplish to understand what this means. Being united to Christ’s sufferings means that our sufferings are done in expiation for the sins of men. We are pierced for others’ (and our own) afflictions, just as Christ was pierced for ours. Through His salvific work, our own sufferings bear fruit.
There are many other reasons for suffering, more than could be described in a blog post. But for today, let’s focus on one more reason. For all of the explanations we can give, we never really come to terms with suffering. It never ceases to be painful. However, even in our most difficult times, we can fall back on the firm conviction that Jesus suffered. Not only did He suffer, but He suffered greatly. He suffered the worst pain of all, and did it confidently, preserving His dignity and choosing not to spurn any of it. Though we may not always understand, Jesus Christ will always be with us in our sufferings. That was His choice. Today we celebrate that choice and join Him on Calvary.
David Dashiell is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader based in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. His writing has been featured in Crisis Magazine and The Imaginative Conservative, and his editing is done for a variety of publishers, such as Sophia Institute and Scepter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feature Image Credit: Angelo Senchuke, LC, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/10001-cruz-murio-hijo-dios