The cross of Christ has changed the meaning of pain and human suffering — of every kind of suffering, physical and moral. It is no longer punishment, a curse. It was redeemed at its root when the Son of God took it upon himself. What is the surest proof that the drink someone offers you is not poisoned? It is if that person drinks from the same cup before you do. This is what God has done: on the cross he drank, in front of the whole world, the cup of pain down to its dregs. This is how he showed us it is not poisoned, but that there is a pearl at the bottom of this chalice. (Homily of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap for the Good Friday)
We are in a very different passion week setting and I would like to put down some of my thoughts. (There is no gradual development).
- On Maundy Thursday, Jesus (who knows that his death is near) eats the ‘last meal’ with his disciples in a solemn fashion. Those Indians who follow the news might have heard that the Nirbhaya convicts didn’t eat the last meal. The last meal can only be eaten in peace by a few people, who have some hope. Probably this sign of hope of Jesus was a living testimony to his teachings and a model for us in our present situation. The later incidents (especially the agony in the garden and the cry on the cross) reveals that this hope is not the absence of fear, but hope and love is much more than the fear. (Some insights from a piece by Dr. Sooraj Pitapalli).
- Jesus was not crucified for preaching love, compassion or forgiveness. (In a rare situation, this may happen today). But he did something which was not normally allowed; to challenge the interpretation of Torah or to give newer interpretations. Yes, there is a social and political dimension (not politics of Rome). In the Jewish religious society, Priestly class was more powerful than normal people; their interpretations of the Torah (laws) were to be ultimate. They had the power to interpret. Now, we have another man called Jesus(outside the high class), who is interpreting, which can be a real danger for them. The problem with many of our interpretations (not all) today is that it will blame the Jewish high class, but don’t dare to accept the lesson for today. Jesus is not keen on any sort of clericalism. All the services in the Church are in the service of God and his people. In the Church, there are innumerable examples of good and bad models and those good models followed Jesus. When the famous Vatican Council II declared the church as the people of God, it was another moment of conversion. We go forward towards conversion at times, we deteriorate at other times. (Some of this is from an article from Jijo Kurian OFMCap)
- This corona season is another moment of conversion, towards a church of the people of God, which when affirms that priests do have a role, but not indispensable. I remember hearing a beautiful saying from a priest in this corona season: “the church will continue to have mass till the last priest lives on”. The comment was made in a particular context, but critically looking I would say, “the Church will continue to have Eucharist till Jesus wants and definitely priesthood may discover newer forms which Spirit desire.” Good Friday in the Corona season is an invitation to a church of the people of God to listen to the prophetic and normal voices of religious sisters and laity (and also those of priests) can be heard more; the troubling voices from non-Christian circles should also be heard.
- James Martin SJ quotes a saying on the crucifixion, “Jesus is the most famous victim of capital punishment.” I don’t have a reflection on this, but I think it is powerful.
- Jesus’ puts his entire self (which includes physical body too)for the sake of salvation. Many people do this in a heroic manner (and some are doing it for many weeks) at this time of COVID-19.
- Three of the powerful words of Jesus in the cross helps us to understand Jesus a little more. I thirst (the humanity of Jesus — thirst is very normal especially in such agonizing times. ); Into your hands, I give my spirit (Trust); Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing (the divinity of Jesus and witness to his teachings. Jesus who knew the inside of the people could say exactly that they don’t know).
- Christianity is the religion of lost things. The lost son, the lost coin, the lost sheep, the lost disciples, the lost sinners and so on. Why the ‘elder son of the famous parable’ ended in the parable as a villain or a not-so-desirable character — the unwillingness to be lost and found… is it? I remember during one of my retreats before joining the Jesuit novitiate, the preacher told us… Jesus took all our sins and became sin (2 Cor 5, 21). When he became sin, was there a momentary loosing of God the father?. A separation between God and sin. A loosing to gain. It is another aspect worth reflecting…
A beautiful quote from Chesterton on Courage could end this…
“Take the case of courage. No quality has ever so much addled the brains and tangled the definitions of merely rational sages. Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. ‘He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,’ is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book. This paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if we will risk it on the precipice.
He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine. No philosopher, I fancy, has ever expressed this romantic riddle with adequate lucidity, and I certainly have not done so. But Christianity has done more: it has marked the limits of it in the awful graves of the suicide and the hero, showing the distance between him who dies for the sake of living and him who dies for the sake of dying.”
― G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy