The world is passing through a strange time in the human as well as Church history. I have never imagined that the meticulously planned monthly plans will turn upside down in a few days as the world was taken hostage by COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of people started to stare at the future bleakly because the normal life of the people came to a grinding halt causing untold suffering, fear, anxiety and worry. Who would have imagined that the Churches and worship places, which radiate life, will give a deserted look with uneasy silence. For us the Christian faithful, this period in the history somehow merges with our Lenten journey. We journey along the suffering Lord Jesus who walked the dusty and stony Calvary road out of love for every human person. We are called to reflect a little more deeply on the meaning of suffering and life with Jesus Christ, always with this hope that there is resurrection after Good Friday.
We feel that we are violently tied down by the cruel hands of Coronavirus. We feel in a moment shaken and hurt as our physical movements are restricted and the warmth of human relationship seemed artificial through social distancing. Evil seems to overwhelm us. But at this time, let us not despair. Rather, let us turn our gaze to Jesus’ last days of his life to come to grips with our pain and agony in a meaningful way. The last chapters of the four Gospels in the New Testament narrate with details the final days of Jesus’ life on the earth. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus struggles, cries and pleads the Father to take away the cup of suffering from his life. But he finally surrenders to his Father’s will. Then the painful drama of Calvary unfolds. It seems as though Jesus comes under the violent grips of evil; he seems utterly powerless. If we read the narratives carefully Jesus becomes silent and completely passive in the hands of the persecutors. He spoke only those times when he needed to reveal who he is. Money, power, authority, pride, anger and revenge stand tall in front of him
However, as he walks the suffering path, he reveals significantly the divine and human face of God to the world. Firstly, he had absolute faith in his Father. He conversed with God daily heart to heart—late nights and early mornings. He, therefore, knew his Father’s heart that the Father would not abandon him. He knew that the same God, who walked with him from his birth and all his miracles and other actions, would be with him as he carries the cross. Jesus was well aware that his God is the God of life. “He is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him” (Lk 20:38). God was the source of life THAT was his hope. Secondly, revenge and anger is not the solution to evil. At the peak of excruciating pain on the cross, he could forgive his enemies. He did not merely preach about forgiveness, rather he showed in his actions. Human beings are vulnerable and weak. Look at Peter, Judas and all other disciples who betrayed and fled. Jesus’ forgiving love alone mends relationship, heals the broken hearted and gives life to the lifeless. Thirdly no suffering has any value in itself. Jesus reveals that any suffering borne with the love of the other becomes meaningful and life-giving one. Besides, suffering and death has no power over God’s absolute power to give life. The pain and suffering in our life has to give way to the joys of resurrection. The dark clouds in our life will pass away to let the light of life and hope shine again.
Finally , along the way of the cross, Jesus encountered many strange and nameless persons. Some are Simon of Cyrene, Joseph of Arimathea, Veronica and so on. One gave a helping shoulder to ease the burden of Jesus while the other gave his own grave to lay the lifeless body. Veronica, on the other hand, could dare to wipe the tears on the tired face of suffering Jesus. Those moments might have been the most consoling moments for him. What Jesus may look from us today is probably patience with one another, perseverance in suffering, compassion and care for the other, encouragement and generosity to the needy. Let us trust in God of life and pray unwaveringly that God, who raised Jesus, will surely raise us to new hope. Let us hold one another in our prayers at this time.
Fr. Perianayagam SJ, Berkeley CA.