Read the text below, preferably aloud. As you hear the word, “listen with the ear of your heart” for a word or small phrase that God has for you this day.
When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [ Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last.
In this passage the words that stand out to me are “darkness came over the whole land until three.” Traditionally, we attribute the darkness to a solar eclipse, but as Fr. Michael Patella notes in The New Collegeville Bible Commentary, there is always a full moon for Passover making an eclipse of the sun impossible. Rather, the darkness was most likely caused by a spring dust storm. Whatever the case, what became clear for me was the limited time placed upon the darkness; the blackness only lasted for a certain time. I imagine that this particular darkness for Jesus was a horrifically long time, but mercifully it was a short time in God’s plan. Just when things seemed most dark, the curtain of the Temple was torn in two. Unique to Luke’s Gospel, the veil is torn even before Jesus died, pouring forth God’s light and love. For Luke, God’s presence makes it possible for Jesus to cry out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,” and to breath his last.
Ruminate on the Word, turning it over in your heart and mind. Over the next two or three minutes, pray on the Word that stood out to you. What does the word or phrase you have chosen mean to you today?
So what does this scripture, “darkness came over the whole land until three” mean for me, especially at the beginning of Lent? As I meditate on these words, I ask God questions. Is the limited darkness the forty days of Lent which end in the Triduum? Or, is the time of darkness the days of Ordinary Time which gives forth to Lent? Even though I realize that the torn curtain was a once and for all event, is Lent a time when the torn curtain is drawn back in a powerful way pouring out God’s love? Does God’s love and light enable me to die to myself and to say with Jesus, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”?
Father, what is my particular darkness today? What about my neighbor’s darkness? My child’s darkness? It is so encouraging to know that darkness has a limit, even when it seems that it will go on forever. Where do I see God’s love and light overcoming the dark in my life? In the life of others?
© Crucifixion, Donald Jackson, 2002. The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota. Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.