From the Chaplain

On Palm Sunday we recall the entrance of Christ the Lord into Jerusalem to accomplish a new relationship for us with God in an act of selfless love for others to accept death on a cross in his own city of Jerusalem. We are invited during this Holy Week to follow his footsteps so that we may share in his Resurrection and new life.

On the one hand this theology shows us the extraordinary love of Jesus for each one of us. On the other hand, it says some very difficult things about God. Why would God say that torture and death is the only way he can be happy about his creatures? Why would a just judge, allow the innocent to die for the guilty? How powerful is God over evil, if the only way he could keep a check on it is through human sacrifice? A suffering God is no God. These are some serious questions which have an impact on our everyday life of faith, hope and love. And these questions can alienate us from our all loving God.

Today, we rightly hear a lot about victims - people, who through no choice or fault of their own, have been dealt with wrongly by others who are free to act otherwise and who know better. In some of the ways we think about the passion, Jesus becomes God's victim. Through no fault of his own, and seemingly powerless in the face of his Father's will, Jesus becomes a victim of God's need for a sacrifice, a ransom or atonement.

As a result, many of us can feel that sometimes we are God's victims too, because if God wanted Jesus to suffer and die, why should we be surprised or complain when we receive large crosses to carry as well?

Mark's account of the passion tends to reinforce Jesus as victim. Mark has Jesus eating with the outcasts, his friends betraying, denying or deserting him. He tells us that Jesus is terrified at the prospect of death and calls on his 'Abba' or 'daddy' to help him out. In the end he accepts 'the will of God' but even then feels abandoned by God on the Cross.

I often think we misread what Jesus is referring to when he accepts God's will in the Garden. Rather than refer to the particular will of the Father to see Jesus suffer and die on Good Friday, I think it's more helpful and consoling to understand it as referring to God's will that Jesus remains faithful to the way he lived. If by doing that Jesus threatened the religious and political authorities of his day so much that they have to murder him, and then his death is the ultimate sacrifice which reveals how far God was prepared to go in love for us. This reveals to us that Jesus came 'to live', and that by faithfully living this life he was put to death by the powers of sin. Through the cross we see the price to be paid in confronting sin in our day and obediently living out the demands of God's kingdom of justice and peace.

This Holy Week let's celebrate that God spared nothing in showing us how to live. As we commemorate Jesus' life, death and resurrection may we move from being victims of a bloodthirsty God to choosing again to follow Jesus' example and live lives which are faithful, loving and obedient. May we also appreciate that this life continues to, literally, threaten 'the hell out of' those opposed to the reign of God in our world, but that as Jesus was faithful to God and God to Jesus, so they will remain faithful to us as well, no matter what.

Little Easters are all around us, but we can only see them if we have willing accepted to be Good Friday people.

Fr Gaetan Pereira SJ
College Chaplain