I have this wonderful painting hanging in my office, “Cimabue after Disney” by the Rev. Dr. Dennis McNally, SJ. Jesus is muscled, teary-eyed, and dead. Blood trickles down his hands and feet.
He’s also naked, and exposed just enough that that’s the one thing people notice when they see it for the first time.
Subtly, at the bottom of the painting is a less-known feature. A mouse, with a dark halo, lapping up some of the blood of Our Lord, and in the not far away from a trap with the door open. It’s an allusion to St. Augustine’s statement: “The Lord’s cross was the devil’s mousetrap: the bait which caught him was the death of the Lord.”
Ever since we left by Eden’s backdoor we have been stalked by death. Its grip and stench hangs on us like humidity on an August evening. We mourn and weep for those who are taken from us. We avoid it for ourselves at almost any cost. We’ve even developed machines that can keep our heart beating and our lungs breathing long after our brains cease functioning.
But, while sometimes we may delay its onset, we can never avoid it.
Death and the forces of Evil even took God Incarnate. The ultimate insult to God. Not even He could protect His Son from the ambitions of evil men, and the inevitability of death.
The trap was set. And it was sprung.
For with that death, death was defeated. The rat took the bait, and the gig was up.
In the early days of my ministry I regarded Good Friday as a somber day, where we were to remember the grisly horror of Jesus’ death. I thought we were to leave church that day with the same hopelessness and despair as the disciples and other followers of Jesus did on the first Good Friday.
However, the disciples may have felt hopelessness, but without hope they were not. It was the Rat who was hopeless. It was evil that was hopeless.
When Jesus uttered those great words “It is finished,” it wasn’t he that was finished. It was the curse of Eden’s backdoor that was finished.
Thus, Good Friday IS good. It is a triumph. For death is defeated, and we can choose Life.
And Eden’s front door.