As I write, I am listening to one of Fulton Sheen’s Good Friday talks on Netflix. Interestingly, it must be one of the things that Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice meant by saying they used Fulton Sheen as their only non-biblical source for Jesus Christ Superstar. The episode begins with Bishop Sheen talking about a conversation he’d had with Orson Welles. Welles was asking him what would be appropriate or inappropriate in a movie about Christ. Specifically, he wanted to do a “life of Christ” where all the characters wore modern garb, to show who would be the Pharisees, Sadduccees, Pontius Pilate, etc., today. Then he would cast himself as a member of the mob. Bishop Sheen thought that was a great idea, and there was nothing disrespectful about it at all.
Yet, that is one of the usual criticisms lodged against Superstar: the anachronistic dress, Roman soldiers carrying machine guns, etc. But it actually comes from Fulton Sheen!
Another common criticism is that it ends with the burial of Jesus. Of course it does. It’s a Passion. That was one of the few flaws I found in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ: ending with the Resurrection (albeit handling it reverently).
I’ve always hated the idea of “adding” a “fifteenth station” and jumping straight to the Resurrection. I’ve never been able to explain it in a simple way, but here’s the simple way: no Holy Saturday.
Every Sunday is a little Easter. Every Friday is a little Good Friday. And every Saturday is an optional memorial to the Blessed Virgin because Saturday was the day she was without her Son.
Sheen liked to say that Americans “want Christ without the Cross.” This is true in many ways, but in the case of most Protestants and your average “post-Vatican II” Catholic (definitely your average “Spirit of Vatican II” Catholic), it means brushing over the Passion as much as possible and jumping as quickly as possible to the Resurrection.
“Look what Jesus did for us! Yay! We have nothing to worry about. Now I don’t have to suffer!”
No; that’s not the right attitude.
The correct attitude is, “Look what Jesus did for us! He suffered, willingly, though undeservedly, because of my sins. I need to be less self-centered and more self-mortifying. I need to accept the just [and unjust] punishments that come my way. I need to fill up in my own body what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.”
The Crucifixion has to *mean* something. Jesus had to lose everything for it to *mean* something; or else we’re just Gnostics and the Crucifixion was just an act.
When we jump, in our meditations, from Crucifixion to Resurrection, we strip the Crucifixion of its meaning. We ignore the triumphal invasion of Hell. We ignore the sorrows of Our Lady of Sorrows, who had to mourn for two days. Mary should not have had to mourn her Son at all. The Catholic practice of honoring Mary on Saturdays is meant to atone for her day of mourning.
To jump straight to the “Fifteenth Station” is to refuse to take any responsibility for our sins or to show our love for Jesus and Mary.