|“The deep-time message of Jesus’ death is presented through a confluence of three healing images from his own Hebrew Scriptures: the scapegoat whom we talked about on Sunday; the Passover lamb which is the innocent victim (Exodus 12); the “Lifted-Up One” or the homeopathic curing of the victim (Numbers 21:6-9) who becomes the problem to reveal the problem.|
The victim state has been the plight of most people who have ever lived on this earth, so in all three cases we see Jesus identifying with humanity at its most critical and vulnerable level. It is God in solidarity with the pain of the world, it seems, much more than God the omnipotent who, with a flick of the hand, overcomes all pain. But Jesus walks the victim journey in an extraordinary way. He neither plays the victim card himself for his own aggrandizement, nor does he victimize anybody else, even his murderers. He forgives them all.
In the Hebrew tradition, the Passover lamb was a perfect, unblemished sheep or goat that apparently lived in the family home for four days before it was sacrificed (Exodus 12:1-8). That’s just long enough for the children to fall in love with the lamb. What could this symbolize? I personally think it is an image of the first (false) self that is thought of as good, adequate, and even innocent. It is who I think I am before I do any shadow work and see my own dark sides. It is when religion stops at the “cleaning up” stage and never gets to “growing up,” “waking up,” or “showing up” for others. Only when we let go of our attachment to any good, superior, or innocent identity do we begin to grow up spiritually.
On Good Friday, Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome, led the Via Crucis, or Way of the Cross, service at the Roman Colosseum, where thousands accompanied Christ’s path to the Cross by the light of candles and torches.
From the Palatine Hill Pope Francis listened to the reflections that accompanied each of the fourteen stations, dedicated this year to the economic crisis that afflicts many countries, to immigration, poverty, and the situation of women and the marginalized in today’s world.
The cross was carried to the various stations by a worker and a businessman, two immigrants, two homeless people, two detainees, two former drug addicts, two patients, two children, a family, two elderly people, two nuns, the Custodians of the Holy Land and, in the first and last stations, the Cardinal Archbishop of Rome, Agostino Vallini.
At the end the Pope addressed some unscripted remarks to the participants:
“God placed on Jesus’ Cross all the weight of our sins, all the injustice perpetrated by every Cain against his brother, all the bitterness of the betrayals of Judas and Peter, all the vanity of tyrants, all the arrogance of false friends. It was a heavy Cross, like the night of abandoned people, as heavy as the death of loved ones, heavy because it carried all the ugliness of evil. However it is also a glorious Cross, like the dawn after a long night, as it represents all of God’s love, which is greater than our iniquity and our betrayals. In the Cross we see the monstrosity of man, when we allow ourselves to be guided by evil; but we also see the immensity of God’s mercy; He does not treat us according to our sins, but according to His mercy.
Before the Cross of Christ, we see, we can almost touch with our hands how much we are eternally loved; before the Cross, we feel like ‘children’ and not ‘things ‘ or objects, as St. Gregory of Nazianzus affirmed when he turned to Christ with this prayer: ‘If it were not for you, O my Christ, I would feel as a finished creature. … O, our Jesus, guide us from the Cross to the Resurrection and teach us that evil will not have the last word, but rather love, mercy, and forgiveness. O Christ, teach us to exclaim anew, “Yesterday I was crucified with Christ; today I am glorified with Him”’.
And in the end, all together, let us recall the sick, let us think of all those people abandoned beneath the weight of the Cross, so that they might find in the trial of the Cross the strength of hope, of the hope of the Resurrection and the love of God.”
“When the soul is invaded by the thirst for blood, faith gives way to ideology. The religious vocabulary is maintained but the words change their content. The hieratic society that empties the name of God of all content practices a horrible paganism. “God” becomes just a word used to express the will to power and the religious symbol becomes a sign of terror. In this way God can ultimately be transformed first into a concept, and then into an idol. Our faith in God at that point is based on this idolatrous foundation. It is now God who scatters death among our enemies, not us. Holiness gives way to heroism: the warrior is holy, salvation through combat on behalf of God. …
We do not sufficiently realize that murder springs from the heart, that no evil is external, and that violence is simply the forthright expression of the vanity of tribes who cannot recognize God’s face in the other. A Christian people, whose heart has been converted to the Holy Face and which lives the kenosis of the face of God, may in fidelity to the absolute never produce anything spectacular in this world, but simply transmit the words that have been said to it. Carrying the cross of Jesus in obedience to the commandment of love, it will bear witness, in the darkness of history, to the truth of Jesus, the eternal Passover.”–Metropolitan Archbishop George Khodr
Excerpted from Violence and the Gospel by Metropolitan Archbishop George (Khodr), Orthodox Archdiocese of Byblos and Botris, Church of Antioch. This article was first given at a conference in Lyon of the Association of Christians Against Torture, and appeared in Supplément de la vie Spirituelle, Sept. 1987.