GOOD FRIDAY MESSAGE, 2019, ALL INDIA RADIO
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas
Secretary General, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India
My dear Brothers and sisters, men and women of goodwill in India and throughout the world.
Today, millions of Christians all over the world will gather around and worship God, crucified on a cross. Good Friday as the commemoration has come to be known is sacred to all who follow Christ as they devote themselves to prayer and fasting, reflect on the passion, suffering and death of their Lord but above all draw lessons for daily living and relationships. In this day, Good Friday, the meaning of Christmas, and Easter are revealed. In this day, the evil powers of the devil and of the world are overcome. In this day, human sufferings find meaning, every person’s anguish finds hope, injustices towards innocent oppressed men and women find expression, death is defeated by life.
Our Great Indian Poet, Rabindranath Tagore in His lovely poem, “Son of Man uttered these beautiful words more than a century ago and I quote him: “From His eternal seat Christ comes down to this earth, where, ages ago, in the bitter cup of death He poured his deathless life for those who came to the call and those who remained away.He looks about Him, and sees the weapons of evil that wounded His own age.”
That fateful Friday, nearly two thousand years ago has not been forgotten and no matter how much rulers and powers try to wipe it away,it will never be forgotten by humanity. For on that day, the life of a humble carpenter’s son, who as Tagore tells us, was Christ who had come down from his eternal seat, suffered the greatest injustice of being put to a most shameful and painful death. His only crime was that he had proclaimed love and forgiveness, served the poorest of the poor, stood up for the deprived and the marginalized, healed the sick, promoted acceptance to lepers and other ostracized people of this world.
Good Friday will never be erased from human memory because it was followed by Easter. Those who thought they had silenced the voice of the innocent, the cries of the deprived and the wails of the marginalized had not imagined that there would be an Easter. After Easter those who believe in Christ can ask like St. Paul, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)
Good Friday can never be ignored as long human beings in this world continue to suffer injustices, oppression and exploitation, undergo betrayal and pain, are innocently arrested and languish in jails. The Prophet Isaiah had foretold about Jesus, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7). Allow me to quote Tagore again in the poem “Son of Man”. He says, “He presses His hand upon His heart; He feels that the age-long moment of His death has not yet ended, that new nails, turned out in countless numbers by those who are learned in cunning craftsmanship, pierce Him in every joint. They had hurt Him once, standing at the shadow of their temple; they are born anew in crowds.”
Good Friday continues in our midst. As Tagore would have said, crowdsthat crucified Jesus wielding the weapons of evil that wounded His own ageare born anew in mobs rampaging our own world today. Jesus was killed, because a campaign was launched against him, crowds poised by communal and religious hate turned into mobs that shouted, “kill him, kill him”. The murder of Jesus, officially approved by the rulers is the climax of a hate campaign which fortunately for humanity resulted in the defeat of hate by love, of injustice by forgiveness, of darkness by light.
Good Friday is re-enacted again when hate filled terrorists attack convoys of soldiers doing their duty as happened in Pulwama Kashmir recently. The tragedy of Good Friday continues when mobs are allowed to attack and kill people because of their religion or their caste or because they are accused of possessing or carrying a certain type of meat. Good Friday returned last week in the Indian state of Jharkhand when Prakash Lakra was killed by a mob and three others were injuredbecause they were carving a dead ox who had dies of old age and natural causes. The injustice of Good Friday returned when the Police charged the three men injured by the violent mob rather that the killers of Mr. Lakra. The Gospel tells us that as Jesus was led to his death, carrying his own cross, a large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. The widowed wives of the Pulwama soldiers, the bereaved family of Prakash Lakra and those eliminated by lynching in the last three years, the survivors of all those killed in senseless violence are the women of our own Good Fridays.
Unfortunately Good Friday will be repeated in many more lives unless the spiral of hate is stopped. Unless the message of love and forgiveness spreads. Good Friday will be prolonged unless incidents like the recent happening in the little Flower school in Tamil Nadu where violent, hate filled men and women tried to strangle Religious Sisters with the chain of the crucifixes. Injustice could not have been greater than the fact that they were being punished for selflessly serving the poor, the deprived and the marginalized. The pain of Good Friday continues in the lives of many people who are innocently languishing in prison, like the Mother Teresa Sister, Sister Conciliawho is in jail for more than nine months in Ranchi on falsified charges only because some powerful people do not like the work being done for the poor and the marginalized. The agony of Good Friday will be extended to other unsuspecting people unless evil minds are stopped from planning and plotting terrorist acts against blameless citizens.
In this regard, let me pray a part of the prayer our Holy Father Pope Francis raised to God on good Friday in 2016: “O Cross of Christ, today too we see you raised up in our sisters and brothers killed, burnedalive, throats slit and decapitated by barbarous blades amid cowardly silence.O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in the faces of children, of women and people, wornout and fearful, who flee from war and violence and who often only find death and many Pilates whowash their hands.”
But Good Friday lives on, today because it also embodies selflessness and forgiveness. Jesus’ words on the Cross, “Father Forgive them for they know not what they are doing” set the benchmark of how the power of love and forgiveness can overthrow the powers of evil. Time and again other noble persons have shown us the way. Pope St. John Paul II, visited and forgave in prison Ali Agca, the man who shot him brutally. In our own Country, Mahatma Gandhi taught us the way of non-violence and love to combat hatred and anger. In recent times, Gladys Staines, the Australian missionary forgave the killers of her husband Graham Staines and her two young sons, 10 year old Phillip and 6 year old Timothy who were heartlessly burnt by a ruthless mob while they were sleeping in their vehicle.
Good Friday continues because it brings Easter. Good Friday is not the end. It is the beginning of a new life, of a victory over death of Easter joy that replaces the darkness preceding and following Good Friday.
Christians in India today, as we always do, will pray for our Country, for our leaders, for our brothers and sisters, for those suffering and are in pain.
I would like to conclude by praying the last part of our Holy Father’s Good Friday Prayer of 2016:
O Cross of Christ, image of love without end and way of the Resurrection, today too we see you in noble and upright persons who do good without seeking praise or admiration from others.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in ministers who are faithful and humble, who illuminate the darkness of our lives like candles that burn freely in order to brighten the lives of the least among us.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in the faces of consecrated women and men – good Samaritans – who have left everything to bind up, in evangelical silence, the wounds of poverty and injustice.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in the merciful who have found in mercy the greatest expression of justice and faith.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in simple men and women who live their faith joyfully day in and day out, in filial observance of your commandments.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in the contrite, who in the depths of the misery of their sins, are able to cry out: Lord, remember me in your kingdom!
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in the blessed and the saints who know how to cross the dark night of faith without ever losing trust in you and without claiming to understand your mysterious silence.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in families that live their vocation of married life in fidelity and fruitfulness.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in volunteers who generously assist those in need and the downtrodden.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in those persecuted for their faith who, amid their suffering, continue to offer an authentic witness to Jesus and the Gospel.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in those who dream, those with the heart of a child, who work to make the world a better place, ever more human and just. In you, Holy Cross, we see God who loves even to the end, and we see the hatred of those who want to dominate, that hatred which blinds the minds and hearts of those who prefer darkness to light.
O Cross of Christ, Arc of Noah that saved humanity from the flood of sin, save us from evil and from the Evil One. O Throne of David and seal of the divine and eternal Covenant, awaken us from the seduction of vanity! O cry of love, inspire in us a desire for God, for goodness and for light.
O Cross of Christ, teach us that the rising of the sun is more powerful than the darkness of night.
O Cross of Christ, teach us that the apparent victory of evil vanishes before the empty tomb and before the certainty of the Resurrection and the love of God which nothing can defeat, obscure or weaken. Amen!
In the name of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, I wish you God’s blessings on this auspicious day of Good Friday. May the grace of God be with each one of you and bring happiness, peace and tranquillity to your family.