Friday, March 21, 2008

Homily on Good Friday

The most important symbol of Christianity is the crucifix – the image of Jesus hanging on the cross.
We have gotten used to this symbol but if we look more closely, we realize that it is gruesome image – we see a person being executed in the most brutal, painful and humiliating way. An electric chair or lethal injection would be less shocking.

What did he do to deserve such a punishment?

We have to bear in mind that crucifixion was a punishment that was reserved for the worst criminals and especially those guilty of rebellion against the Roman Empire.

Was Jesus a rebel?

He was not a Zealot. He did not take up arms against the Roman occupiers. But what did he do that made those in authority think that he was a dangerous man?

He came to preach the coming of God’s kingdom – this was the Good News of salvation – the good news that God will save them from sin and all forms of evil, slavery and oppression. He denounced evil in society and called people to conversion. Above all he cleansed the temple and drove out the money-changers – those who used the temple trade to exploit the people.

This was surely good news to the poor and to those who were longed for freedom and salvation. But this was not good news to those who benefited from the sinful structures and systems. His message was dangerous – it would subvert the existing kingdom and empire that was under the dominion of sin and evil.

He came to serve the poor and the needy, those who were hungry and sick. By doing so, many believed that he was the awaited Kingly-Messiah – the Son of David. He was welcomed as king when he entered Jerusalem. Naturally, the authorities and the Romans were afraid that he would lead a rebellion against Rome.

Thus, in the eyes of those in power, Jesus was a dangerous man, a threat to the status quo. The proclamation of the coming of the kingdom of God was a threat to their existing kingdom and empire. He had to be put away.

The cross at first glance symbolize the brutal reality of sin. Where sin reigns, the just man suffers and die. Jesus on the cross experienced the suffering of so many people in the world who have been victimized by the sinful situations and systems.

The cross at a deeper view symbolize the love of God for humanity – the God who gave up his son for our salvation. It is also the greatest expression of Christ’s love. As Jesus said during the last supper: no greater love a man has than to lay down his life for his friends. The cross reminds us that it is the power of love that will ultimately free us from the power of sin and death.

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