Lessons for today’s world from Good Friday | Daily News

Lessons for today’s world from Good Friday

Today is Good Friday where the Christian world will commemorate the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross over two millennia ago. Good Friday is the culmination of Lenten which began on Ash Wednesday and the intervening 40 days was marked by acts of fasting, penance, mortification and other forms of sacrifices as Christians retraced the last days of Jesus leading up His Crucifixion on Mount Calvary.

In Sri Lanka too Catholics engaged in solemn prayer and sacrifice participating in the Way of the Cross where the faithful relived the passion of Christ symbolized by the fourteen Stations of the Cross depicting Christ’s each step of the way to Golgotha. Pilgrimages are also being made during the Lenten season to prominent local Easter landmarks such as Hiniduma and Mawathagama where the Way of the Cross is performed before giant lifelike statues reliving the last journey of Christ, by the faithful with much emotion and passion. Such activities are being held this year on a low key due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Holy week

The week leading to Good Friday is called the Holy Week that began on Palm Sunday which heralded Christ’s triumphant entry to Jerusalem, during which there is an intensification of acts of penance and sacrifice by the faithful. There are also passion plays held at church venues in the Catholic belt - the most famous being the Duwa passion play - the brainchild of the legendary Fr. Mercelline Jayakody who was equally at home in every place of worship, regardless of religion. Distribution of alms is also common on Good Friday as acts of expiation of one’s sins on this day of great importance for Christians.

The main Good Friday services will be held in all Churches in the country, subject to health guidelines, with the central feature being the ‘Three Hours Agony” marking the final hours of Christ’s passion. For Catholics in Sri Lanka Good Friday (and Easter Sunday) will have an added poignancy and somnolence due to the grave calamity that befell a section of their community due to terrorist bombing of churches bombings exactly two years ago, resulting in hundreds of deaths (The exact date is April 19). This nightmare is bound to linger in the minds of not just Catholics but all other Sri Lankans with the approach of every Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Monumental sacrifice

Good Friday and Easter Sunday, to follow, are the single most ground breaking events in the Christian calendar, perhaps even more important that Christmas, since they mark the death and resurrection of Christ , fulfilling the word of the scriptures in the Old Testament. By his death Christ bowed to the wish of His father the Almighty God, for by this single act He purged the sins of mankind and gave hope for redemption from sin. With His monumental sacrifice Jesus banished the darkness that enveloped the world and ushered in a new light of redemption and hope for all mankind.

During his short mission on Earth, Jesus sought to change the entrenched beliefs rooted in the Old Testament and clashed with the Pharisees who saw in him a challenge to their domination. He preached love and compassion by enjoining his audience to turn the left cheek to those who slap you on the right, in place of an Eye for an Eye. This was compassion instead of revenge. He mingled with sinners and outcasts and condemned the rich epitomized by the Pharisees and the High Priests of the temples. When He was questioned of his company by the Pharisees Christ had only one word for them - “who among you is without sin let him cast the first stone”. Christ also preached the virtue of selflessness and sharing and enjoined the rich to give to the poor people. His life was mostly spent with the meek and the humble. He took to task the rich who hoarded their wealth and let the poor have only the crumbs as with Lazarus. He enjoined them the virtues of giving and sacrifice if they wished to enter the Kingdom of God.

He preached that “it was easy for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven”. He told Peter and the rest of his Apostles that if they were to follow Him to be prepared to leave behind all their possessions and all things they coveted. Christ preached the virtue of love and respect for one’s fellow human beings and in fact, all beings. “Love thy neighbour as thine own self. Forgive those who had harmed you,” was his message to the followers. Christ even forgave Judas who betrayed him in the end. In his Sermons on the Mount He also preached the virtue of humility.

Teachings of the Christ

Good Friday should be an occasion for reflection on the teachings of Christ and the true meaning of His brief but everlasting mission on Earth. All that He abhorred and condemned during his short mission on Earth are today very much evident as at no other time in a selfish and corrupt world. The race for riches and power is rampant as at no time before. This is seen not only among individuals but also among States. Rich nations today are reluctant to help their poor counterparts. One only has to look at how the rich nations are hoarding COVID-19 vaccines at the expense of poor countries, with some countries ordering vaccine doses that can inoculate their populations 10 times over. The world will be able to come off this calamity if they share such resources.

Money is spent for producing weapons to wage war whereas this could have helped feed the teeming millions in poverty stricken nations - the complete antithesis to the violence which Christ preached against. There is also inequality everywhere and justice is denied to the innocent and might reign over what is right. Interestingly, a majority of these countries are from the Christian world that ought to have known better.