Saturday, April 23, 2011

Reflections for Good Friday

The Cross is a sign of love, freedom and hope

Once again we will be observing Good Friday to commemorate the death of Christ on the Cross. It is a day we will reflect on the sufferings and death of Christ, which is generally called the Passion of Christ. The Passion is the theological term used for the suffering – physical, spiritual, and mental – of Jesus in the hours prior to and including his trial and execution by crucifixion.

To many the Passion of Christ is just a lesson in history where we sympathize with Christ for the sufferings he went through before he died.

That is what we do during the church service, read and enact his passion, pray for the church and the people of the world and venerate the cross on which Jesus was crucified.

We find it hard to believe how the people can be so cruel to inflict the most severe form of pain on a man who they knew was innocent. For us Christians the Passion should be more than a lesson in history but a lesson in life to stand up for truth and justice under even the most difficult situations.

The Passion is based primarily on biblical accounts of the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. From these accounts we know Jesus was falsely accused, convicted and sentenced, not by fine or imprisonment, but to death by crucifixion, the severest form of sentence a man can possibly get.

As if that was not enough, before he was crucified he was humiliated, severely persecuted, whipped, scourged, crowned with thorns, dragged up a hill carrying a heavy cross, stripped off his clothes and then nailed to the cross, watched by many, like a hardcore criminal

What crime did Jesus commit that deserved him to be punished in that most inhumane way? He was tortured, humiliated and killed not for cheating, amassing wealth through corruption, rape, adultery or murder but for telling the truth, the truth which caused so much fear among those in positions of power and comfort. He was a threat to their social security and had to be eliminated at costs and which they did.

Throughout the journey of his passion, what was astonishing was the way Jesus humbly accepted his punishment which he knew was unfair and unjust. He very well knew he was innocent. However he accepted the punishment willingly without fighting back or defending himself. He did not show even the slightest anger or retaliation for being victimized, falsely accused and sentenced by the kangaroo court that tried him.

He did not get angry with the Jews who accused him, Pilate who sentenced him and the Roman soldiers who executed him. Instead he had the great magnanimity to forgive all of them who took turns to insult torture and kill him. It was the highest level of humility that no ordinary man can have. To me this extraordinary nature of Jesus goes to prove that he was no ordinary man but the Son of God.

This was in keeping with what was written He was oppressed, yet when he was afflicted he didn't open his mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before its shearers is mute, so he didn't open his mouth”.( Isaiah 53:7).

Jesus taught us to love our enemies and to offer the other cheek when struck on one. He had demonstrated that he really meant what he said by accepting his Passion so willingly. Today many of us try our best to escape from the law even when intentionally committing an offense. We are prepared to cheat, pull strings, pay money and many other corrupt means just to escape punishment. At times others who are innocent are punished to let us go free. Are these actions of ours right? Christ accepted punishment willingly for crimes he did not commit and even treated those who punished him with love and forgiveness but we are not willing to face the consequences of our crimes.

We call ourselves Christians, the followers of Christ, but how Christ-like are we in accepting humiliation and pain for speaking the truth? How Christ-like are we when we are accused of offences we did not commit? Will we be humble enough not to strike back and forgive those who accuse us?

What lesson does the Passion of Christ provide us in our own lives? We too in own small ways are often falsely accused, humiliated and punished for standing up for truth, by the authorities in the government, our places of work, families and even in the church. When we are denied our rights we fight back fiercely, sometimes with vengeance. We organize protests, demonstrations, hurl verbal abuses and resort to legal recourse. We may even resort to violence and wars to redeem our lost rights.

Many of us behave like the Jews who made false accusations against Jesus and wanted to get rid of him. We too make false accusations against those who are against us in order to get them out of our way. We resort to all forms of high handed tactics to succeed. We fail to realize that our efforts cause so much pain and suffering to the person whom we depose and his family.

There may be others among us, especially those in positions of power, who behave like Pilate, refusing to stand up to public pressure for fear of losing our power. Due to our greed for power, we succumb to the wrongful demands of the public and wash our hands off the problems of those in need. Others continue to support those in power who suppress the people under their care

Like the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus, there are many among us, who carry out the execution of others without empathy or compassion. Even if we know it is wrong, we carry them out anyway for fear of the authorities or some material rewards.

As we make the final Way of the Cross and read the Passion of Christ on Good Friday, let us reflect on its relevance in our own lives, of Jesus’ actions during his agonizing moments. Let his Passion not be just a lesson in history to commemorate Christ’s suffering at the hands of his own people but a lesson for us to emulate. His Passion is not something to sympathize or be sorrowful about but a real lesson for us as we encounter the many challenges in our lives.

Christ’s humility and forgiveness even towards his adversaries is infinite which is what not just Christianity but humanity is all about. The Cross is a sign of love, freedom,sacrifice and hope not sorrow and despair as we often make it to be.

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