Friday, 22 April 2011

King of the Jews

The traditional devotions of Good Friday, with their concentration on the sufferings of Christ, and our own implied or stated responsibility for them, are too much for many people. But in fact they are a great school of Christian mysticism. Christ’s suffering and death was not just an unfortunate consequence of the fact that people did not “get” his message. He was actually taking on and living through the consequences of sin – absorbing it, so to speak, into himself. And that means we can find ourselves in him.

None of us can judge himself. We may secretly think we are not so bad, but none of us really knows how many sins he has committed, or how serious they are, and what their consequences were. In a sense we are complicit also in the sins of others, or else in prayer we can offer ourselves for those who committed them. And then there are sins of omission: things we have failed to do, graces we have resisted. For all these reasons it makes sense to accept responsibility for the numerous small slights and wounds that were inflicted upon Christ, and even for his death. If we absolve ourselves we are usurping the role of the eternal Judge who sees all things aright.

Plunged into the experience of the Passion, we can see the results of what we collectively and individually have done to God, in the world and in ourselves: in the world, where we have silenced him, or despised him, or misinterpreted him, or used him for our own purposes; in ourselves, where we have taken him for granted, or denied him, or ignored him. The sufferings in our own life, which are due if not to our own sins then to those of others, can be located somewhere on the map of Christ’s Passion, or in the mirror of the Cross. In this way we live in him, and he lives in us, through death into resurrection.

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