Friday, March 29, 2013

Reflections on Good Friday

As we continue Holy Week, we come upon the focus on the death of Christ remembered on Good Friday. It is easy to think Jesus a hapless victim who got caught by unfair authorities hellbent on His destruction because he challenged them.  It is easy to believe He was unable to save Himself as He did others, as some sneer at Him as He hangs on the Cross.  These are easy because it is nothing more than a historical footnote of a tragic death of a good man 2000 years ago.  What is not easy to believe, in fact many take offense at the idea, is that He willingly did it and that He had to because of what I and every other human being had done.  Many say that it is an insult that someone should have to die for them.

First, everything is Scripture points to Jesus knowing exactly what was happening and willingly going into the fire.  On many occasions He tells His disciples what will happen to Him in Jerusalem.  They fail over and over to listen.  He makes no effort to dissuade Judas. He deliberately goes to the Garden of Gethsemane knowing full well Judas will seek Him out there.  He does run nor resist arrest.  He does not argue or plead His case either in front of the Sanhedrin nor in front of Pilate.  He does not tap into His divine authority to destroy those who plot against Him or who are carrying out the over the top torture or the execution. Why?  Purely because He loves us.  No other reason.  The Father loves us, even in our deep ugliness and distorted look from our sin.  His son pays a debt we cannot; His act of supreme love, a total emptying of self repays the debt incurred by our every act of selfishness, hatred, intolerance, prejudice, pride, wrath, and every other action that despises the integrity and dignity of those around us.

But He does not force this act of forgiveness upon us.  We have to acknowledge the need we had for what He did and ask for help.  That is hard.  We have a tendency to carry the weight of our mistakes, our inhumanity, our grudges, our biases, and our hate as if they prize possessions. Many believe that if I ignore them that they simply disappear  into the ether.  All that is done is that they are pushed deep into the subconsciousness where they fester and pollute; leaving the individual a veritable potpourri of hate,  impatience, and anger.  It builds resentment ad hostility.  Reality cannot be run from, only masked, and then only for a moment.  The Cross reminds us that a Loving God does not want us crushed and enslaved by our own choosing, but wants to lift these crosses from our shoulders and replace them with a freedom.  How sad that so many see this as an insult and sternly allowed themselves to be weighed down through all of life.  It is a variation of "Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven."  In hell, I can keep my biases, prejudices, grudges, intolerance, and pride.  In hell, I can be selfish and materialistic.  Even if it keeps me in a place that makes me miserable, even if it poisons every relationship I have, people can prefer enslavement to such things to the new life Christ extends to us through the Cross and its forgiveness of all sin.  Why?

Because a new life means a new way of living.  If I allow God to wipe away my sinfulness, I cannot embrace it again.  I have to use new ways and embrace new things.  Patience must replace impatience, understanding must replace intolerance, trust must replace grudges, selflessness must replace selfishness, and so on.  I think we are all too unaware that the sin we choose to carry become heavy crosses in other people's life.  Personal selfishness helps weighs down others in fueling a crushing need for the basics (be they physical or emotional).  My grudges become crosses thrust upon the shoulders of those with whom I am angry.  I could go on, but hopefully the point is taken.  As Christ say: "Whatever you did or did not do for the least of my brothers (and sisters) you did or did not do for me.  Hence when we thrust a cross on someone else, we thrust it onto the shoulders of Christ.  When we choose anger, cruelty, revenge, lust, greed and other self centered crosses on others to carry, we thrust them onto the Christ who loves each and every one of them.  Life comes with enough natural crosses (sickness for example) with the necessity of our putting crosses on other people's back or even weighing ourselves down with these unnecessary crosses  Even in the natural crosses, Christ helps us carry them...why on earth would we think a it a good things to pile on more ?!

This Good Friday, as we are thankful for the eternal love God shows as he Son dies for us; let us resolve to let go of the unnecessary crosses of wrath, selfishness, and such that we pile on our own shoulders and upon the shoulders of others.  Let us let these crosses dissolve through the love shown us so that we might live as those who are free and wants others to be free of the crushing weight of greed, bias, and selfishness

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