On Good Friday, we commemorate the passion and death of Jesus. We are invited to recommit ourselves to be partners in the vision and mission of Jesus and ready to pay any price including death to realize the vision and mission of Jesus in the context we live today.
Today, I want to hold up for our reflection and consideration two of the characters that appear in the passion – Simon the Cyrene and Joseph of Arimathea. It can help us to understand the passion of Christ and its implications for our life of discipleship.
Even though Simon began carrying the cross begrudgingly, I’m sure there was a turning point, a moment in his life when he realized that carrying the cross was his greatest accomplishment, the greatest grace, and a turning point in his life. I wonder is this corona virus crisis is not the cross that we are being asked to carry? Like Simon, we can feel like our lives are upended, thrust into a situation that is not of our making. And yet this experience of the COVID -19 can also be transformative in our own lives, helping us to overcome our self-centeredness and be more other directed, helping Jesus carry the saving cross when we reach out with compassion and empathy. This is a cross that teaches us humility and patience, and hopefully how to put others first. Hopefully there will be a moment when we can look back at our history and say that this terrible scourge that caused so much suffering will have made us better people, more loving, more generous, more courageous, less materialistic, less individualistic, less self-centered. Hopefully, we may be able to say that when I help my brothers and sisters to carry their cross, I carried the cross of Jesus and became a real disciple.
Another figure in the passion story is that of Joseph of Arimathea. He, like his fellow Pharisee Nicodemus, tried to follow Jesus at a safe distance. He felt inspired by Jesus’s message and was excited by his vision, but Joseph of Arimathea had much to lose if he were to be too identified with Jesus. But all of that changed with the crucifixion. The apostles, ran away from the cross. Joseph of Arimathea, on the other hand was transformed by the powerful experience of the cross. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, when they looked at the cross they were cured of their self-importance, their cowardice, their vanity, their insecurities. Instead of running away from the cross they ran toward it. We often use that image to describe our first responders, who rushed toward the burning building, the bomb site, the COVID-19 Ward. Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb becomes the first Tabernacle, holding the body of Christ.
At present, we are in the same situation as that of the Israelites – we are in captivity, no freedom, afraid of being affected by COVID-19, no public worship, no gatherings or social activities but only seclusion and isolation; the whole world is like people in the graves, like dry bones. I pray that like Joseph of Arimathea, we will overcome our fear and our pride and run toward the cross to proclaim to the world that we are the disciples of the crucified one.
Fr. Paul Mundumoozhikkara