WAY OF THE CROSS 2018
Through Phoenix Park Dublin
Elements for reflections of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin
Good Friday, 30 March 2018
Jesus is troubled. He prays that the time of trial may not come. Yet he knows that he must face that trial. His life has changed. What has happened to this Jesus who went from town to town doing good and bringing healing and wholeness to those who were suffering or in distress? What has happened to this man who was acclaimed as one who taught with authority? How is it that this Jesus who spoke as a prophet and who proclaimed that the kingdom of God was near at hand is now reduced to silence and human powerlessness? The Jesus who was acclaimed by crowds at his entry into Jerusalem ends up abandoned.
Indeed this same Jesus who during his life spoke about and witnessed to his closeness with God the Father, seems abandoned even by God.
The Father remains faithful. An Angel comes to give him strength but his anguish remains to the extent that even blood flows with his tears.
God remains faithful. On the other hand, we see how frail and fragile trust in human projects can be. Judas, one of his own, betrays him. He betrays him with a kiss: a kiss, the sign human warmth and friendship and tenderness is turned into the sign of betrayal.
The unfortunate Judas shows us where pride can lead us. Judas followed Jesus in the hope of achieving power and success. For him, personal power and success alone were real; love did not count. With his pride came greed, money became more important than communion with Jesus, more important than God and his love.
How do the followers of Jesus react? One of them reacts with the sword. Jesus not only rejects this act of violence and vengeance, he restores the wounded man to full health.
Jesus is troubled. Yet through his anguish and his serenity in the face of betrayal and evil, he shows what integrity means.
We pray for the Church that it will not fall into the temptations of self-preservation or greed.
Jesus rejects vengeance and violent retribution. Blessed are the peacemakers and those who reject violence in our times: political violence, criminal violence, sexual violence, violence in our homes, violence against children, the violence of prejudice and exclusion.
Lord forgive our insensitivity towards those who are marginalized. Restore to us the gift of true embrace: human warmth and friendship and tenderness with all.
Jesus is abandoned. Peter the rock on which Jesus was to entrust his Church simply denies him. Peter is not a bad man. He wishes to see what is happening to Jesus, but from a distance. He wishes to be near Jesus but not to compromise his position with others.
Jesus is abandoned and left to the cruel and sordid mockery of those who were holding him, those who should have been there to protect him from mockery.
Jesus is abandoned by the religious authorities who set in motion a mock trial with its conclusions already drafted.
Jesus remains with his own dignity and integrity. His answers are not the answers of one who wishes to play their game or simply to wriggle out from their false accusations. Once they find a formula that suits them, the crowd take Jesus one step further in the hope that Pilate will take the decision and carry out their nasty work.
Following Jesus calls for integrity on our part. It is easy to go through the formulae, to say the right words that will not offend anyone but neither will ever convince anyone. It is easy to fall in with outward signs of decorum and never come to know Jesus and to understand the radicalism of Jesus’ call.
We remember all those who face injustice, especially those who face injustice and persecution because of their faith, and those who face discrimination because of their racial, sexual or cultural difference.
We remember those who seem content with a faith that is superficial, and find a way to go along somehow with the changing culture of the day. Faith in Jesus is counter-cultural. We pray for clergy and leadership in the Church who fall into the temptation of half- heartedness, superficiality, and compromise, that the Lord will touch their hearts and renew in them the strong flame of faith and love.
They prefer Barabbas. Herod and Pilate know that this Jesus is an innocent man. But they do not want trouble with the crowd. It is easier to find some way to keep the crowd happy. They try to find some solution of compromise. Herod is even anxious to talk with Jesus, but Jesus does not even dignify him with a single word.
Jesus is not a man of empty compromise. His message is not one that can be tailored to fit anyone or any circumstance. The authorities try to accommodate and compromise and please the crowd. But the crowd does not fall for the nice talk and they become even more angry. The more a just one cedes his or her principle, the more others will take advantage.
The crowd prefers to have the most famous criminal of the day released, a patently violent and evil man, the polar opposite to Jesus.
The crowd paradoxically fears the integrity of this innocent, mild and unarmed Jesus, more than the violence of Barabbas the criminal. What is it in Jesus that unnerves them and causes them to reject him and hate him? The spineless authorities hand Jesus over to the crowd and they release Barabbas.
Those who uncompromisingly stand up for their principles are not always accepted in our times. The principled can easily become called the intolerant and the divisive. The superficiality of consumerism can eat away at integrity and courage and seeking what is good and principled. The throwaway society, unknown to itself, inevitably begins to throw away even its principles.
Lord protect our young people from falling into the trap of superficiality. Help them to dig deeper into their hearts to discover where true values are rooted. Give them the gift of true discernment. Encourage them to understand that success is not just a rat race about themselves, but springs from a culture of deep respect.
Help our young people to embrace a culture of mature sexuality, where love and respect are fostered over and above exploitation or empty pleasure. Protect the vulnerable from exploitation . Allow us all to rediscover the challenge of the joy of love – Amoris Laetitia.
There are some who journey with Jesus. Alongside the mockery and the hatred and the sordid cruelty of those who are charged with bringing Jesus to the place of his cruel death, there are those who still stand by Jesus.
Simon of Cyrene is forced to share the burden of Jesus. He may never have seen or even heard of Jesus before this, but we know from other scripture readings that he and his sons had become well known figures in the early Christian community.
Simon is touched by what he experiences. From being forced to be part of the process of a spectacle of death, he is moved through the experience of sharing the suffering of Jesus. They probably never shared even a single word. Faith is not about words or formulae. Jesus speaks through him being the revelation the God who is love. There are no easy short cuts to identifying in our lives with the Jesus who showed his love for us through suffering. Faith in Jesus involves giving of one self.
The women of Jerusalem intuitively understand the man of suffering. In the midst of insensitive mockery, they are the only ones who shed a tear for him. Their weeping for Jesus reminds them that their tears are not just for him, but for them, for their children and the world. Evil generates evil. Evil generates victim after victim. Evil breaks down society.
We know well that the conflict between good and evil is still very much alive in our world. We fail at times to remember that the conflict between good and evil is very much alive in the heart of each one of us. The evil that is in us does not just damage ourselves but contributes to the collective evil around us.
Lord help is to fight evil with goodness. Help us to pass on to our young people a culture of radical goodness. Grant peace in our times. Protect those who endure war and conflict and starvation day after day. Enlighten leaders around the world and help us all to remember that you cannot compromise with evil and hope to attain peace. Bless the peacemakers in our times and bring peace to those who endure martyrdom day after day, even in what we claim are our enlightened times.
Jesus is despised and rejected. Jesus is recognized. The sordid spectacle of bringing Jesus to death continues. The hardened soldiers go through their rituals. Jesus is just another criminal to be executed. To the categories of the soldiers, Jesus is not very different to the two other criminals they have to deal with except that those who mandate them consider Jesus to be perhaps higher risk.
Who is missing from the scene? Missing from the scene are those whose idea the whole sordid spectacle was. They remain in the city. Respectable hands do not get dirtied through the ritual of execution. They stay in the safety of their homes. Many are indeed busy with something they consider more important. They are busy with the mechanics of their ritual religious observance. The execution must be carried out expeditiously in case the sordid brutality of the crucifixion might defile the purity of their ritual celebration of the Passover.
Herod and Pilate became friends. The soldiers go on with their rituals as they had done on many occasions before. They divide his clothing. They cover any pity they may have in their hearts with insults and challenges to Jesus.
Jesus remains faithful even in the midst of his agony. His final words are words of the accomplishment of his mission as he commends his spirit to his Father, having totally given of himself even unto death so that we can have life.
Just one man recognizes Jesus, and he is one of the criminals. He sees the innocence of Jesus and begs his help. Jesus tells him that he will that very day be with him in Paradise. The first beneficiary of Jesus’ self-giving and humiliation is a common criminal.
Power and authority, prestige and arrogance are not the path that can lead the men and women of our time to recognize Jesus. The ones we disregard, the weak and the sinners may well be the first to trust in the goodness and mercy of God.
Who are we to judge? Who are we to put others under the microscope of where they are in the search for perfection. We are all sinners on a constant path of conversion. The Christian faith is about the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ. None us can claim that our love does not need constant purification.
Thanks be to God who gave himself up for us. He opened the door of God’s mercy for us, with all our weakness and imperfection, and made it possible also for us, despite our sinfulness, to hope one day to be with him in Paradise. ENDS