On Good Friday, the church is filled with people who come to commemorate the Passion and Death of Jesus. The tabernacle door is open wide and it is empty. The sanctuary candle next to it: extinguished. The familiar visible signs of the presence of God are absent.
We read the Passion from John’s Gospel. The leaders of the Jewish community are filled with hate for Jesus. Full of pride for their position as respected officials, these learned men seek the utter destruction of Jesus. The Roman soldiers are filled with violence, finding and outlet in the abuse of Jesus; mocking him as the King of the insignificant local community. Jesus empties Himself completely, not just by dying on the cross, but in the spilling of the precious Blood and water which flowed from His side. In a surprising fullness of courage, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus claim Jesus’ body and where it fills the void of the tomb that awaited a body.
The tomb could not hold Jesus. He would rise and leave it empty for his disciples to find. The tabernacle cannot stay empty for long, as the Easter Vigil Mass fills it with the newly consecrated hosts. The church is filled with Easter decor of flowers and incense as she welcomes new members to God’s flock. And the song of Alleluia fills the building and echoes off the walls.
The starkness of the Good Friday liturgy heightens our awareness of the Eucharistic presence of God. In the emptiness and fullness it exemplifies the destruction of sin in our lives when we choose our will over God’s will for us. The fullness of Easter fills the empty places, even that of the tomb, with joy of God’s presence among us. The light of Jesus’ example is not merely like that of a candle, but rather like that of the sun on a cloudless day. It reminds us that even if we have to suffer to do God’s will, we can rejoice because Jesus rose from the dead and in the fullness of time, He will come to take us home to heaven with Him.