On this sacred day, we listen to the story of the passion of Jesus as told by John the Evangelist.
When you listen to this account, you find it to be simply overwhelming. It is almost too much to take in at once. The passion of Jesus is a gripping drama that reaches down inside of us and evokes our deepest and strongest emotions. It almost defies words of commentary or explanation.
Each of us has stood near the cross at particular moments in our lives. We know this place well. The situation may have involved the serious illness or loss of a family member, grappling with a broken relationship, experiencing a terrible disappointment, facing a disability, a communal riot, unjust persecution, brutal lynching and murder of the ‘other’ or a thousand other things. Whatever the situation, we know that standing near the cross is indeed a painful place to be. The Gospels do not suppress or gloss over the pain of the cross. In an era in which talk about a Messiah who had been crucified sounded ludicrous to many people, the Christian Scriptures presented the death of Jesus directly and vividly. For Christians, keeping the memory of Jesus’ death is a living reminder that we are never alone as we stand near the cross in our own lives. While our faith does not magically remove the pain of that place, you and I are assured that Jesus, the crucified Son of God, is in solidarity with us at that place. He is intimately close to us because he has experienced that place in the most personal and intense way possible.
Standing near the cross of Jesus is also, however, a powerful place to be. It is powerful not because God finds any joy in human suffering. It was human beings, not God the Father, who put Jesus on the cross. Christianity is not a cult of suffering. Standing near the cross of Jesus is a powerful place to be because it is the place where the power of God is present and at work – quietly, faithfully, patiently at work from within. At his own moment of death, Jesus held on to the hand of his Abba God, and, even in this hour of darkness, experienced communion with this tenaciously faithful God. And God was present and on the move to bring life out of death. The flow of blood and water from the pierced side of Christ is a sign of that new life that will become manifest in the raising of Jesus from the dead.
Mary at the foot of the cross – Sculpture, St Isidore Farm, Korea. Photos: Missionary Society of St Columban
For us, too, despite its pain, standing near the cross can be a powerful place to be. It is, in our context of unjust treatment, accusation, harassment, violence, legal hurdles, hatred and hate violence, killing and ethnic cleansing…
Standing near the cross of Jesus is a painful and a powerful place to be. As we pray this Good Friday, we are invited to stand there with Jesus and his disciples. And we are called to trust that what is happening there is what happens wherever the God of Jesus Christ is present: God is faithfully present and at work to bring life out of death. We believe that this, in fact, is what God does for a living.
Jesuit Conference of South Asia
Listen to Reflection - Standing near the cross
- Read more from The Far East, April 2019