God in his infinite love created Adam and Eve. He wanted them to eternally enjoy the gift of creation by listening to him and obeying his one edict — not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. But they were tempted to disobey by the Evil One.
Their Original Sin brought suffering and death into the world. But God, through the passion, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus, offered mankind the hope of redemption.
This is the essence of the Easter celebrations, which begin with Lent when Christians are marked with ash on their forehead, and are called to turn away from sin and return to God. They are reminded that they come from dust and to dust they will return.
During the 40 days of Lent, Christians gratefully recall the assurance of redemption, and in its light renew their life through prayer, abstinence, almsgiving and penitence to celebrate Christ’s resurrection at Easter.
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, which is the Sunday before Easter. Specific days during the week commemorate different events leading to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Holy Thursday recalls how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. It was on this night that Judas betrayed him for thirty silver coins! Later his chief disciple, Peter, denied knowing him three times to save himself. Once betrayed and denied, Jesus suffered intense humiliation, beating, and scourging until he was finally crowned with thorns.
The next day, Jesus was made to carry his cross to Golgotha where he was crucified and where he died the most excruciating death. Even after his death, an over-zealous soldierpierced his heart and the last drop of his blood was spilled to save the world from sin and restore it to life eternal. This is the goodness of God, which is remembered and celebrated on Good Friday.
The promise of "Good Friday" is fulfilled on Easter Sunday, the day that God raised Jesus from the dead. Can we believe in the reality of the Resurrection? Jesus himself testified to his Resurrection, as witnessed in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke, as a sign of His Divinity, saying, “Tear down this temple, in three days I will build it again".
Those who crucified Jesus were afraid of this and so had put guards around the tomb in which his dead body was placed. Yet the tomb was empty on Easter Sunday. The guards claimed that the disciples had stolen the body. For the terrified disciples, it was impossible to have done so. But no one could disprove Jesus's resurrection by presenting his dead body. Even the disciples did not believe easily in the resurrection! So, it was not easy for Jesus to prove that he had risen. The doubtful disciples started preaching the Risen Jesus only after receiving the anointing of the God’s Spirit at Pentecost.
The Resurrection was, and is, the foundation of belief in Jesus.
The days of Holy Week each have their special significance. On Holy Thursday, in his Last Supper of Love, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. It embodies the ideal of Servant Leadership where the Leader does not show his power or position but serves all in love and humility. This helps us to best understand the quality and nature of Leadership.
On Good Friday, Jesus suffered at the hands of his enemies and died on the Cross. This symbolises the extent to which God suffers with us in our suffering and never abandons us. In this life we may suffer with or without cause. Yet we must understand that suffering brings forgiveness of our sins and the sins of others. When we suffer, we die to our selfishness and get renewed in body, mind, heart and soul, becoming new creations. On our part we should not crucify others, that is, we should not cause suffering to others. Instead, we should wipe away their tears and comfort them. While hanging on the cross, Jesus forgave his tormentors. Can we, like him, forgive those who cause us suffering?
What then is the Message of the Resurrection for us? The disciples saw the empty tomb of Jesus and believed in him. Today people should look at the good words and deeds of our life and believe in Jesus. Also, we should not live in the tomb-like life of despair, discouragement and death. Instead, we must live a joyful life in order to experience the real presence of God in all events and at all moments.
“Peace be with you”, is the assuring salutation of Jesus amidst all trials and difficulties. If we endure them with faith and fortitude, we will experience the deep, inner peace of Jesus, which no one can give or take away.
So, on all our Good Fridays we need to remind ourselves of the promise of Easter that will follow. We need to seek our peace and joy in God in all the events of daily life. We must live in peace, be messengers of peace, and live joyfully in the close company of our God of peace and joy. Finally, the resurrection calls us to show love,mercy, compassion and self-sacrificing service inour life, showing that the God of love truly lives in our hearts. It is in this way that we can be reborn, be resurrected, as it were, into a new life.
It is just like spring, the promise of regeneration and new life after the cold fallow days of winter. So too is Jesus’s death and resurrection the promise of new life. And for us, if we are to be transformed by Easter, we must die to our selfishness and be renewed in body, mind, heart and soul, becoming new creations of God, the Easter people of the New Life of Love, Peace and Hope. Let this become a reality in the life of each one of us today and every day.
Author is principal of St. Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Kolkata