Friday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
(Joel 1:13-15.2:1-2; Luke 11:15-26)
The “Crucifixion” by the Spanish painter Velazquez merits meditation. It shows an almost nude Christ with arms outstretched. He does not appear to be hanging so much as presiding over the sacrifice of his own self. His long hair drapes half his face as if the painter wants to show that Christ’s humanity hides his divinity. But his divinity shines through in the brilliance of Christ’s skin which contrasts with the totally dark background. The painting expresses what the prophet Joel in the first reading warns Judah to prepare for. This is “the day of the Lord.”
Velazquez may have taken his theme from any of the four gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke have the sky darken as Jesus dies on Calvary. This accords with the darkness and gloom that Joel foresees. The first three evangelists indicate – as John does in a distinct way – that the cross presents the moment of judgment for the world. Those who recognize Jesus as the Son of God by the sheer graciousness of his death are saved. Those who cannot distinguish Jesus’ goodness from the darkness of the world are doomed.
Of course, recognition here implies willingness to conform to his ways. Jesus is, after all, our teacher, our elder brother, and our hope. Not following him would be like not following the instructions of the pilot of a rescue ship when we are drowning in the sea.