Reflection for Good Friday

In the talk at Alice Springs the Holy Father went on to say “Some of the stories from your dreamtime legends speak powerfully of the great mysteries of the human life, its frailty, its need for help, the closeness to spiritual powers and to the value of the human person. It is wonderful to see how people, as they accept the Gospel of Jesus, find the points of agreement between their own traditions and those of the Jesus of history”. But then John Paul brings us into the context of this Good Friday when he continues “So many of you have been dispossessed of your traditional land and separated from your tribal ways. Yet you have learned how to survive, whether on your own lands or scattered among the towns and cities”.

Aboriginal society is one in harmony with nature rather than one intent on plunder and conquest. The millennia during which they lived alone they found in the world about them not only beauty and harmony but signs of divine intent. Here lies the heart of their relationship to the land. We have learnt a beautiful lesson that a properly constituted ecological awareness can only be built on the foundations of the spiritual recognition of the holiness of the world around us. This was conferred by the immaterial and spiritual realities. The sacred was always materially incarnated in the realm of nature.

In the Gospel we are about to read, Pilate asks, ‘What is truth?’ This can only be experienced by the way that one lives life. For us this is in the context of the Gospels. It is to do with what Christ taught with the Sermon on the Mount. Such a lesson involves our whole being. It is solidarity with the dispossessed. And at the heart of this is the depth of compassion Jesus possessed within Himself.

Compassion is at the heart of our faith. It is what gives sense and meaning to Jesus being murdered by way of the cross. It is among the most beautiful presence a person can bring to the world. It comes when one can acknowledge one’s own vulnerability and woundedness. It is only then that one can experience the pain of the other. I feel that the greatest danger to our country and to our world is when people are unable to feel with compassion. It is compassion that will save our world.

Where better proof of that could be found other than in the figure on the cross. It is precisely here that we can start to comprehend the essence of Good Friday. Look at Mark, Matthew and Luke. They didn’t have Jesus in a lotus position like the Buddha telling us that God loves us and leave it at that.

No, for Jesus went much further. He served the poor in Galilee and then marched through to Jerusalem and literally broke down. According to Luke, He says, “If today you had only understood the things that make for peace”. He walked into the temple and turned over the tables and drove out the sheep and the oxen. An act of civil disobedience. This non violent direct action resulted in His arrest, trial, torture and execution. John places this episode more at the beginning of his Gospel describing Jesus as a troublemaker. For the rest of his life the authorities were out to kill him.

But why? Jesus called for an end to the entire cultic system. He was upset that God’s house had become a Coles/Woolworths. It was the culmination of His lifelong obedience to God and civil disobedience to imperial and religious injustice. Jesus was not passive or quiet or apolitical in the face of institutional violence which presented itself both in secular and religious forms. He had a long haul perspective of eternal life in mind. He always kept God’s justice, peace and reign foremost in His mind. He acted regardless of the consequences. He acted in the here and now.

That is what He asks of us His followers, that we too keep our eyes on the resurrection despite the temporary cost. We come back to this again — the resurrection. If Jesus is so zealous for God’s house and gives His life marching to Jerusalem to confront unjust structures which oppose the poor what does that mean for His followers?

It comes at a cost. We live in a society that pretends about lots of things. We cannot pretend about a suffering and a dying Christ. Here we have a dying man finding no one there, finding only shadows, a lost figure in a dying landscape, unable to escape the doom that seemed to belong only to others. Why? It is here that we use political language; the majority was not interested in truth but only in power and the maintenance of that power. It is here that we come to realise that the Christ in our lives didn’t die for our sins but was executed because he set out on a course that enhanced the deeply human with the touch of the sacred. No more duality only unity.

John Hill
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