Saturday, 3 April 2010

Good Friday Year C

Modern mentality is allergic to the Cross. In fact, it takes a dim view of the Cross as evidenced by the reaction to Mel Gibson’s version of The Passion of the Christ. The accepted view is that our Catholic fascination with the Cross seems to border on masochism. Go to St Peter’s Church in Malacca and you find that for Good Friday, the corpus is replaced with a bloody and mutilated “body” of Christ.

In these days of make-over, God has not been left out. In fact, in some churches, the corpus on the Cross is now replaced with the corpus of the Risen Christ. The God of vengeance has given way to a God who is gentle, less forbidding and incapable of anger. This desire for a “cleaner” image of God reveals not so much our superficiality but rather our schizophrenia. Just for wanting to focus on a Christ bloody and crucified, we are judged to exhibit masochistic tendencies. But, who is to judge all the addictions—alcohol, adrenalin, drugs, food, gambling, and even womanising. The list is actually very long but the point I am making is this: we forget that all these addictions are forms of self-mutilation. Humanity is no less masochistic than the Catholic Church is.

Self-mutilation is part of who we are. In fact, sin is a form of self-mutilation. And this where the Catholic focus on the “suffering” of Christ makes sense.

Watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion and look beyond the so-called gratuitous violence. You begin to appreciate that those last moments of Christ’s life mean the world to salvation history. It is easy to be enthralled by the many wonders and miracles performed by Christ. They are proofs that God works mightily. But, often we forget that when Christ was not preaching, teaching or working miracles, He was saving the world.

In the midst of unspeakable anguish and pain, suspended between earth and heaven, Christ was painstakingly recreating the disfigured face of humanity. Hanging on the Cross, the Sinless One took upon Himself our “self-mutilations”—our sins in order that we might be healed. By His wounds we are healed and thus, the silence and powerlessness of the Christ on the Cross is far louder than any of our words and stronger than any of our actions.

Today, there will be a large crucifix set on the altar for our veneration. The main cross is covered and has been since the 5th Sunday of Lent. Being creatures of habit, we can get so used to the Cross as to take it for granted. But the crucifix on the altar unveiled and presented to us, draws our attention to how much of our self-mutilation Christ has to take upon Himself in order that we might be healed. Hence, the whole Passion Liturgy is punctuated by very uncomfortable silences to allow us to contemplate that the price of our many self-mutilations is no less than the death of the Son of God; the death of God Himself. Therefore, the suffering of Christ is not pointless because there on the hill of Calvary, our many sins at their worst meet God’s love at its best. The assurance of the mutilation of Christ is that no one present here is a lost sinner because the death of the Son of God has brought us life.

It is a day of solemnity! A day of remembrance! A day of penance!