As Jesus hung on the cross on Calvary,
we are told, "From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until
three in the afternoon" (Mt. 27:45). Together, Sts. Matthew, Mark and Luke all
report this (Mk. 15:33; Luke 23:44). St. Luke adds, "because of an eclipse of
the sun" (Luke 23:45). In the Prophet Amos we read, " On that day, says the
Lord GOD, I will make the sun set at midday, and cover the earth with
darkness in broad daylight" (Amos 8:9). This passage describes the "Day of
the Lord", a day of God's judgment. On Calvary, God's judgment against evil
occurred in Jesus' death. From a biblical perspective, history is seen as "a
conflict with light and darkness confronting one another, a confrontation
identical with that between life and death" ( TheDictionary of
Biblical Theology, p. 316). In John's Gospel, we are told that as Judas
left the upper room as the betrayer of Jesus, "It was night" (John
13:30). As Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he said "This is
your hour, the time for the power of darkness" (Luke 22:53).
At the beginning of the creation
account found in the first chapter of The Book of Genesis, we are told
that "the earth was a formless wasteland", and darkness covered the abyss"
(Gen. 1:2) until God spoke the first word of creation, "Let there be light"
(Gen. 1:3). On Calvary, darkness covered the whole land when Jesus spoke
the first word of the new creation, "It is finished" (John 19:30). In The
Book of Exodus, the Passover ritual which God spoke forth to Moses was to
include each family procuring a lamb: "It shall be slaughtered during the
evening twilight" (Ex. 12:6B); some of its blood was to be used to mark the
two doorposts of each house; and the lamb's roasted flesh was to be eaten that
same night, as the Lord slew the first born of Egypt at midnight (Ex.
12:, 23, 29). Further, the Red Sea was parted at night as God's people
passed through it as on dry land (see Ex. 14:21,22).
On Good Friday, as the powerful first
reading from Is. 52:13-53:12, is proclaimed at the service of "The Passion of
the Lord", the first two lines state boldly the outcome of the Suffering
Servant's voluntary offering:
servant shall prosper,
He shall be
raised high and greatly exalted"
John reminds us in John 1:5, "The light shines in the darkness, and the
darkness has not overcome it." This Servant of the Lord is one who has been
called, chosen, grasped, set as a light and covenant of the people, formed,
well-trained with inner strength as the fruit of a rich, hidden life of prayer
with the Lord…"To bring out prisoners from confinement and from the dungeon
those who live in darkness" (Is. 42:7). The Catholic Church sees the life
and ministry of this Servant as being fulfilled in Jesus. On Calvary, Jesus
took upon himself the darkened oppression of the "dungeon" of all evil
so that humanity could live in the light of day.
There certainly is some mystery to the
words that St. Paul speaks of Jesus in 2 Co. 5:21: "For our sake he made him
to be sin who did not know sin"; the words of St. Peter: "He himself
bore our sins in his body upon the cross" (1 Pet. 2:24); and the words of
God through the Prophet Isaiah: " Yet it was ourinfirmities that he
bore…upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole…the Lord laid
upon him the guilt of us all" (Is. 53:4,5,6). On Calvary Jesus, the sinless
Lamb of God, took upon himself the darkened powers and effects of sin, Satan
and death. For three hours, "darkness came over the whole land".
Currently, both in our nation and in
our world, a moral andspiritual
eclipse seems tohave come "over the
whole land". Unfortunately, many people today are choosing to live in a
"nocturnal deceit" of moral error. It appears as if many have willfully and
intentionally "yanked the needle off of the moral compass": "Woe to those
who call evil good, and good evil, who change darkness into light, and light
into darkness" (Is. 5:20). The opening prayer (collect) for the 13th
Sunday of Ordinary time, found in the Roman Missal, states:
we pray, that we may not be wrapped in the darkness of error buy always
be seen to stand in the bright light of truth".
his earthly life and certainly during his public ministry Jesus took a stand
for the cause of the Father. This stand--"Father, Your will be done"--will always bring us in conflict
with the world, the flesh, and the devil, and will bring us to the cross where,
united with the one-time offering of Jesus, "we will stand in the breach" as
Living as we do in a time of a
growing, militant atheism, a relativistic notion of truth, "the dictatorship of
individualism", and the "tsunami of secularism", we are in an "age of eclipsed
conscience": "Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to
evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics,
social action, and morals" (CCC 407).
Intercessors are exhorted strongly to
remain devoted, dedicated and determined in the midst of this morally depraved
"landscape". On Calvary, there was no compromise under darkened skies.
Rather, Jesus persevered to the end in his "Love Offering" to the Father for
the sake of the sin of the world. There is a great need today for empowered,
communal intercession in our "nocturnal age". Intercession--united with the
once-for-all offering of Jesus on the cross--is a "sword of light" (Is.49:2;
Eph. 6:17B) that can pierce spiritual and moral darkness in any age, and open
hearts to a desire for conversion. On Calvary Jesus has gained for us the grace
to persevere in committed, sustained intercession under "darkened skies"!
What personal choices am I making to avoid the moral eclipse of our times?
scripture from the text; John 3:19-21; Eph. 5:8-11; Phil. 2:15-16; 1Pet. 2:9