Spirit of redeeming love of the crucified jesusMarch 28, 2013, 12:00 pm
by Fr. Augustine Fernando,
"Sevaka Sevana", Bandarawela
Christians commemorate the death of Jesus on Good Friday. He was condemned to die hanging on a cross. When Jesus was brought to Pontius Pilate the Roman Governor in Judea, he told the chief priests and the elders of the people, "You brought me this man before me as an agitator, one who perverts the people; Now I have gone into the matter myself in your presence and found no grounds in the man for any of the charges you bring against him. Nor has Herod either, since he has sent him back to me. As you can see, the man has done nothing that deserves death, so I shall have him flogged and then let him go. But as one man they howled, ‘Away with him! Give us Barabbas!" Pilate should have released Jesus even without flogging him, as He had done no wrong to deserve such chastisement. Yet, with false accusations and without any reliable evidence Jesus was condemned to death. The trial of Jesus has become the most famous mistrial in human history.
That bad judgements, mistrials, evil and malicious decisions and actions of ordinary as well as important and powerful people, whether in national or international forums, or even in private transactions could cause small as well as calamitous destruction in society is evident. This showed then, two thousand years ago, and it is shown now in today’s world that individual or collective wrong done by one individual to another or a people precipitate unjust condemnation of innocent people, deprive them of justice and all their rights and even put them to death. The just and the innocent die due to the criminality, perversion and the sins of those who unjustly condemn others.
The Biblical story of Cain and Abel shows that the work of a good man irks and irritates the bowels and heart of an evil-minded man. And the evil man plans and plots the destruction of the good man.
Sin is evil that human beings are guilty of. Sins are deliberate immoral acts of human beings who freely choose to act offensively. All human beings are prone to sin. Human beings are born with clenched fists. Though it may be a physiological tendency in the traumatic experience of birth to the light of day, it is also symbolic of man’s profound selfishness and self-centredness, that distances and alienates him from others and even from himself. Selfishness is the basic sin in man. Yet sin imposes an enormous burden on the conscience of man. The more grave the sin the heavier the burden of conscience becomes. Crimes committed over and over again, may make a man hard-hearted and seemingly immune to any sensitivity or voice of conscience. Nevertheless, however much hard-hearted a man or woman may become, at some moment of life or even at the moment of death, critical and most significant to the person concerned, the burden of conscience becomes unbearable, because one cannot divest oneself of it. It is far heavier than one’s shadow, but like the shadow one has to carry it wherever one goes. The person thus afflicted has to unburden himself in some way, spill it out, sob and weep bitter tears and seek relief from someone or find life itself losing its meaning and coherence for him. This could lead to mental agony, loss of hope in life, despair and even self-destruction.
There is no man on earth without some sort of sin, moral wrongs and faults done as a result of one’s own deliberate and free decisions. The more serious the wrong the greater the sin becomes. Yet no one should be indifferent or succumb to sin, evil and injustice. Sin should be overcome by grace, evil by good and injustice by justice and truth. Conscious of and humbled by our sins, we should learn to forgive one another.
Man’s history also shows that man recognizes periodically at least the need to expiate and pay for one’s sins by acts of penance, repentance and prayer or acts of alms-giving, compassion and concern for others, especially the poor, the needy, the marginalized, the helpless, the orphan and the poor widow. Anthropological history also shows that man has tried to ‘transfer’ his sins on to some animal, cow, goat or lamb and sacrifice it, by spilling its blood. Jewish people too had inherited this idea until they came to understand through their many prophets that God had no need for the blood of bulls, calves and goats and that a broken, contrite, a humble, converted and purified and transformed heart was far more acceptable.
And this was the core of the message of Jesus. Peace and goodwill, proclaimed at the birth of Jesus and after His resurrection, is the fruit of a sinless and blameless heart. Jesus who preached the message of the ‘kingdom of God’ for three years was a man without sin. Jesus speaking to the Pharisees, the scribes and the people told them, "Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my words, because you are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell you the truth you do not believe me. Can anyone of you convict me of sin?"" (John 8.43-46). Jesus clearly told everyone that one must have the spirit of truth to accept what He says.
He also claimed for Himself the prerogative of forgiving sin. Many a time he forgave the sins of people, healed them of their physical infirmities and asked them to go free and sin no more. When a woman taken in the act of adultery was brought to Jesus and told that according to the existing law, she should be stoned to death, He told them, "Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone!" And they all left, beginning with the eldest. He asked her, "Has no one condemned you?" And she replied, "No one, Lord." And says Jesus, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more." (John 8.3-11)
True to form, the wickedness of chief priests and scribes and the elders of the people was such that they planned to kill Jesus. The very existence of an upright man is always a constant challenge to evil men. However, Jesus never retracted his words. When they finally got their way and crucified and killed Him, they had to admit that He was indeed innocent and beat their breasts and return home. (Luke 23.47-48).
John the Baptist had already spoken of Jesus as " ‘he who follows me’ but who will rank before me, and the thong of whose sandles I am not worthy enough to untie" and as the "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world". (John 1.27-34). Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist who had begun his mission before Jesus. The Gospel of Luke makes a quotation found also in John’s Gospel that says, ‘I baptize you with water; but the one who follows me is more powerful than I am, the straps of whose sandles I am not fit to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire’, the fire of love (Luke 3.16). Jesus Himself defined the nature of this love when He said, "Greater love than this no man can have, than to lay down his life for his friends" (John 15.13). And his disciple John comments, ‘As Christ laid down His life for us, so ought we lay down our lives for the brethren, loving one another as He loved us" (1 Jn 3.16).
The Cross is a reality in every person’s life on earth. The cross makes itself present in one form or another to everyone. Jesus has said, "If any man wishes to be a follower of mine, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9.23). All our responsibilities, duties, burdens, trials, tribulations, problems have to be borne in the manner that Jesus carried the 'yoke' of his mission. Jesus tells his followers, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy and my burden light" (Matthew 11.29-30)
Jesus through His death through crucifixion gave his own Spirit and the fire of His love to those who followed him sincerely. That new spirit would transform relationships and make all things new.The world from the time of Jesus’ death has changed for the better in many ways. Crucifixion itself was abolished in the then Roman Empire. Today capital punishment has been almost universally discarded in the civilized world. The comity of civilized nations are persuaded that any form of violence is not acceptable or reasonable as a means of seeking solutions to human problems at any level. There is the prospect and promise of rehabilitation of even criminals. The values of truth, justice, equality, freedom, human dignity, love, humility, compassion, forgiveness, human solidarity, fraternity and peace continue to even imperceptibly permeate the whole world. That education at any level and the upbringing of the young should be nurtured on these values is almost everywhere accepted. There is taking place in the midst of humanity an inexorable cultural evolution and transformation based on these values. Yet many still have to imbibe the Spirit of Jesus and His fire of love should inflame the hearts of peoples and nations. The more truly people will get close to Him and transform themselves through love for Him, He will have removed sin and the power of sin from their hearts to make the world a true home for everyone living on this planet where the spirit of love that Jesus proclaimed will become more palpable in the hearts of all people of goodwill.
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