06 April 2012

Fear and hope on Good Friday

The Irish Times carries the following editorial on page 15 today [6 April 2012]:

Fear and hope
on Good Friday

In his anguish and in his pain, the dying Christ cries out on the Cross on Good Friday: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It is a pitiable cry that echoes the opening words of Psalm 22.

But it is a pitiable cry that has resonances this Good Friday for many who feel forsaken and abandoned today: families facing homelessness because their loans and mortgages are being foreclosed; parents mourning as they see their children being forced to emigrate; older citizens fretting at mounting charges for public and local services, despite having paid their ways through all their lives; owners of small businesses facing closure because the banks refuse credit or overdraft facilities; immigrants now thinking of returning home, their savings spent as they tried in vain to seek new opportunities; young families living in hopeless ghost estates. In their anguish, they must wonder why this day, of all days, is called Good Friday.

For others, Good Friday has nothing to do with the loss of hope and the recovery of hope, and the very meaning of “Good Friday” is lost to them. Instead, it is the start of a long bank holiday weekend. Or it may be just another run-of-the-mill, humdrum day, robbed of meaning and significance, another day to go to work, another day without work, or a day when the pubs are closed.

Is it any wonder that many today must question why this Friday is called “Good Friday”? Yet, looking at the anguish of the world, TS Eliot can still say in “East Coker”:

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood -
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

But the anguished cry of the dying Christ on the Cross on Good Friday takes on new meaning when it is understood in the light of Christ’s own priorities. These he set out at the beginning of his ministry in Saint Luke’s Gospel, when he took the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth and declared his priorities were “to bring good news to the poor ... to proclaim release to the captives ... recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free...”

Similar priorities are echoed in the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount in Saint Matthew’s Gospel, when Christ proclaims his priority is for those who are poor, who mourn, who are meek or without property, who hunger for justice, who show mercy and who work for peace. These people are marginalised in every society, and are often isolated as they campaign and protest.

The anguished cry of the dying Christ on the Cross becomes their cry of rage against injustice in the world today. The dying Christ has not lost his faith. The God he cries out to is no abstract, philosophical concept, but remains a personal God who hears the cry of the poor, “My God, my God.” And the Resurrection faith of Easter offers hope to those who fear their cries are never heard.

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