Pondicherry Archdiocese

Glorious Calvary!

The graphic exhibition of violence of Roman crucifixion, projected by Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’ can be called ‘the Longest Day’ (L. Legrand, ITS, 41, 2004) due to its over-display of too much blood and gore. People, watching this movie became spell-bound, shocked and their eyes showered tears. However, when we see the end-result of the passion of Christ we come to understand that Jesus’ passion did not have a pathetic end; we pray in the Common Preface (VI) of the Roman Missal: “He endured his Passion, so as to break the bonds of death and manifest the resurrection.” Isaiah foretold: “He was wounded for our transgressions” (Isa 53:5). So also, the early Church believed that “Christ offered once to bear the sins of many” (Heb 9:28).

Jesus the Warrior!

Woes, defeats and disasters encircle the true servants of God, like Abraham, Moses, Job and Jeremiah. Buried by suffering these holy men walked in deep faith in Yahweh, discovering the purifying value of suffering (Ps 73:17; Deut 8:5; Jer 9:6). We are used to mourning over Jesus as a Suffering Servant of Yahweh (Cf. Isa 52-53). True, this might look valid when we read the passion narratives of the Synoptic Gospels. Nevertheless, the Johannine outlook is different. In the passion narrative, described by John, it is Jesus who takes control of all those who interact with him: Pilate, Peter, chief priest, soldiers and mourning crowd. Instead of Pilate questioning Jesus, it is Jesus who questions Pilate. No Veronica to console and no Simeon to help him carry the cross, Jesus carried “the cross by himself; he went out to Golgotha” (Jn 19:17). Even at Golgotha he is the master of the situation until he said: “It is finished” (Jn 19:30). R. E. Brown states that in John’s narrative it is Jesus and not Pilate who acts as Judge putting his adversaries on trial so much so that Jesus is the ‘King of kings and the Lord of lords’ (Rev. 17:14) {Gospel of St. John, II, 863}. This warrior-motif is succinctly demonstrated by Revelation.

The Lamb Standing!

The Revelation pictures Jesus on Calvary as “the Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered” (Rev 5:6). Here the author combines the theme of Suffering Servant/Slain Lamb with the motif of Pascal Lamb/Warrior Lamb. When we read this with another vision: “The Lamb standing on Mount Zion” (Rev 14:1) we are able to see a ‘militant warfare’ in Calvary against death and Evil. The Cross for Jesus was not a symbol of suffering, but a weapon of war. That is why this Lamb is with ‘horns’ of power, ‘eyes’ of omniscience and ‘spirit’ of omnipresence (Rev 5:6). Early Christians, living under crisis and conflict on account of their faith in Jesus, believed that Jesus on the cross engaged in war with the devil and brought victory over death (1Cor 15:54). Therefore, for Jesus, the suffering of the Cross was means to achieve the end result of  resurrection, signifying the death of Death, bringing us a hope of victory over Evil. At this moment it is relevant to remember

what Pope Benedict XVI stated: “Resurrection was not about a deceased individual coming back to life at a certain point, but an ontological leap occurred…creating for all of us a new space of life” (Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. II, 274).

Share Christ’s Suffering!

As Christian disciples we are expected to rejoice to share Christ’s suffering which is salvific, bringing new life of resurrection (Cf. 1 Pet 4:13-14). Paul told the Galatians: “I am again in childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Gal 4:19) and the same Paul wrote to the Colossians: “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake” (Col 1:24) and he was happy to list his stations of the Cross to the Christians in Rome and in Corinth (Rom 7;12; 1Cor 4; 2Cor 4; 6; 11). What is the goal of his sufferings? He expressed to the Philippians that he wanted sharing of his sufferings by becoming like Jesus in his death if somehow, he might attain the resurrection from the dead (Phil 3:10-11). This is equal to him crucifying with Christ (Rom 6:6; cf also 6:4, 10). Ignatius of Antioch and many other martyrs, for the sake of their faith, rejoiced to join Jesus in his Way of the Cross which led them to take part in His resurrection.

Victorious Calvary!

As per the above narratives, Calvary is not just a place of Jesus’ death, it is the place of his victory of resurrection. He brought forth this victory and salvation for us through his passion and death. In fact, we observe the Lenten days of passion in order to obtain the life of resurrection. Many a time, our Good Friday bypasses Easter Sunday; because of our slackness of conversion of heart we continue to remain in Good Friday only. But, through self-denial (Mt 16:24), patient endurance in faith commitment (Rev 13:10; 2Thess 3:5) and faith-witness even unto death (Rev 12:11) we can reach the victorious Calvary to enjoy the life of resurrection.

Wish you all a very Joyous Easter!