The grounded hope of Good Friday

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In its Christian context, Easter Sunday celebrates the rising of Jesus to life. It follows his brutal execution on Good Friday after rigged trials. Good Friday this year occurs at the beginning of April, a month which Pope Francis dedicated to prayer for ‘those who risk their lives while fighting for fundamental rights under dictatorships, authoritarian regimes and even in democracies in crisis’.

Main image: Good Friday Procession In Jerusalem's Old City (David Silverman/Getty Images)

Such prayers have always been necessary. The sun will always rise on brave people as they wake ready to continue their struggle for justice, though wondering whether at the end of the day they will still be free and alive. Most live in towns and villages of which we have never heard, in nations about which our media report little. But sometimes we see the urgency of prayer written on the public images of people who have risked their lives.

Movies have made us familiar with the faces of those who formed a chain, passing from one to another Jewish people in flight from Nazi extermination. The poems of writers who were killed or exiled to Siberia during the purges in Stalinist Russia evoke other images. We may also remember the faces of young students who offered flowers to soldiers during protests in Manila and Tienanmen Square.

More recently we have seen the faces of students in Myanmar as they offered roses to the soldiers blocking their protest. Sadly these peaceful gestures have so often been rejected with implacable bloodshed and imprisonment.

It is surely right for people who have seen their human rights violated and have suffered in defence of their families, friends and fellow citizens to be outraged by the savagery with which powerful, ambitious men with guns go successfully to war against their unarmed fellow citizens in order to protect their self-claimed entitlements. It would be hard not to nurture rage and hatred against the perpetrators.

Good Friday properly belongs in that world of outrage at the violation of humanity. It does not move us away from horror and anger but invites a pause for close reflection on them. On Good Friday expediency, brutality and military efficiency at killing had the last word. It was the last day of someone who lived as if every human life, every human person, was precious to him, who spoke of peace and non-violence, and of a God to be found in the carpet of flowers in the fields and not in murderous lines of troops.

 

'Good Friday properly belongs in that world of outrage at the violation of humanity. It does not move us away from horror and anger but invites a pause for close reflection on them.'

 

On Good Friday he was arrested, beaten up in prison, condemned to death in rigged legal proceedings, was torn by whips, nailed to pieces of dead wood and left there naked, stripped of humanity and value. On the wood of his cross no flowers grew.

The pause of Good Friday invites us to turn our attention away from the men with guns and on to the people who die, are raped and tortured by them, whose flowers are trampled by them, and whose cause is crushed by overwhelming power. It is a time for tears of respect for good and brave people.

It invites us also to look past the death-masks of soldiers clad in black, and on to the faces and coloured dress of young people who have approached them in peace, on to the faces of women who have beaten pots and pans in the markets to express their rejection of tyranny, and on to the fleeting faces of shadowed people who have filmed state violence, protested against it in poetry and song, sent news of it through the world, and have begged our support.

Good Friday is a day of solidarity. It sets the lives of all these brave people, dead and living, and the lives of all those whose dignity they defended in a wider arc where the value of a life sacrificed and a freedom vainly fought for is not lost but shines and is woven into the tapestry of relationships between people and world, between past, present and future, a tapestry that will never be unpicked. It is about hope against hope, its face set not against anger but against despair

The arc of the Christian story of Good Friday also reaches beyond remembering and beyond solidarity to a grounded hope. In it the man who was killed on Good Friday is the Son of God who shared fully our humanity in all its betrayals and abandonment, rose from the dead victorious over its power, and whose spirit remains with us. Neither for him nor for others who share his fate are death or defeat the last words. The last word belongs to life and to the solidarity that his rising engenders.

 

 

Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street, and writer at Jesuit Social Services.

Main image: Good Friday Procession In Jerusalem's Old City (David Silverman/Getty Images)

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, Good Friday, freedom, human rights, dignity, solidarity, hope

 

 

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Existing comments

"The last word belongs to life and to the solidarity that his rising engenders." Amen. 3 o'clock./Though pressed down/blood-red now,/by dead weight/of my own and others'/deafness,/still You find/and give today/the words that free/and make life new:/"Father, forgive them - they know not what they do. . . "/Break open/like an egg of Easter/our carapaced indifference/strip bare the practised maskings/that disguise, evade. . ./Christ, Lord and friend,/help us hatch, hear, grow. . . /Yes:/"It is finished.". . ./And our cross begins . . .


John Kelly | 02 April 2021  

On this most solemn day we reflect on Jesus’s dignity and strength as he faced a tortuous death, trusting in love for humanity and trusting in his Father. His example stands in eternity and in the present day so we remember his pure sacrifice and our own need for him.


Pam | 02 April 2021  

Voila! Two seasoned practitioners of the religious arts playing tennis and shifting from superb prose to sublime poetry. I might tweak that last line, John Kelly, dare I say, from 'And our cross begins' to something incorporating 'une poule' (yes; from Easter's 'egg' to 'robin' to 'hen': the Anglosphere doesn't permit that improbable but fantastic metamorphosis, as we hear every year at Roland Garros). Surely its 'new life' that begins, non? Merci.


Michael Furtado | 02 April 2021  

"Forgive them, Father. They know not what the do." That may well have been the case some 2000 odd years ago but in our world they know exactly what they are doing and plan it meticulously.


john frawley | 02 April 2021  

Thank you, Michael Furtado. As this little piece was penned yesterday - Good Friday - in the morning, a time I usually sense in its unique solemnity after the Last Supper Eucharist's closure with the stark stripping of the altar, the idea and import of the Cross were uppermost in my awareness and sensibility, along with the Johannine paradox of the Cross being our Saviour's "hour" of "glory", a supremely epiphanic and efficacious event in which his followers are privileged to share and rejoice. As the 'Anima Christi' boldly entreats: "Make me inebriate with the cross of Christ' - the source of new life. Hence my last line as is. Happy Easter.


John Kelly | 03 April 2021  

Beautiful words Andrew: pity they do nothing to stop deaths in custody. Your quote from Francis is very poetic. Maybe someone can explain his role in the dirty class war of Argentina; which saw thirty thousand innocent people butchered by the military, where the Church hierarchy (of which Francis was part) gave its blessing, and where priests passed on information to death squads obtained from hearing confession. Maybe if our dirty war on First Nations People were to end even St Thomas would not doubt that your beautiful words are real.


Fosco | 03 April 2021  

Happy Easter !! A curious greeting at this time of year. Does the wished happiness come wrapped in golden foil delivered by a giant rabbit? Does it ride with us on the perfect wave? Does it come with the cinnamon warmth of hot cross buns? Or does it come from the essence of Easter itself? cross-fixed, in sacrifice writ in spilt crimson essence, Love cheats death of permanence life beyond human demise with promises of paradise.


john frawley | 04 April 2021  

John Frawley's last question (4/4) and his memorably poetic answer to it capture the real meaning of the familiar Easter greeting as offered by Christ's followers. It affirms the accomplishment of Christ's earthly mission and the accessibility of its benefits for all who receive him and his message in faith. The conditions for the world's salvation have been decisively established by Christ, our Saviour, and the ultimate victory of God's love over evil is assured. We have it in flesh, blood and spirit. As Pope John Paul II rejoiced: "We are Easter people, and Alleluia is our song!" Happy Easter, John Frawley!


John Kelly | 06 April 2021  

To answer Dr Frawley's curious question: for a great many Australians the culminating event that we have celebrated over the last few days has precisely been to rise with Him on the perfect wave!


Michael Furtado | 06 April 2021  

John Frawley: ‘Or does it come from the essence of Easter itself?’ The essence of a happy Easter may be two happy flukes: the happy fluke of Adam and a happy fluke for ourselves. If there was no requirement in Justice for the First Couple to be forgiven (and there could not have been or they would have been entitled to have been forgiven, despite the fact that forgiveness is an unmerited grace), it must have been Mercy for God to forgive them. But, forgiveness has to be accepted and it is our happy fluke that, unlike Lucifer, the First Couple must have wanted to be forgiven.


roy chen yee | 07 April 2021  

And to you, John Kelly!


john frawley | 07 April 2021  

“The very first Easter, with Jesus, taught us this: that life never ends and love never dies.”


AO | 07 April 2021  

And you, Michael Furtado!!


john frawley | 09 April 2021  

Et tu, John Fraws! God Bless.


Michael Furtado | 09 April 2021  

Breathe, breathe in the air. Don't be afraid to care Leave but don't leave me. Look around and choose your own ground. For long you live and high you fly And smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry. And all you touch and all you see. Is all your life will ever be. Run, rabbit, run,( the Easter Rabbit? The rabbit in Alice in Wonderland?). Dig that hole, forget the sun. And when at last the work is done. Don't sit down, it's time to dig another one. For long you live and high you fly. But Only if You Ride the Tide. And Balanced on the Biggest Wave (Yes, Rise with Him on the Perfect Wave! MF). You race towards an early grave. Lyrics by Pink Floyd.


AO | 11 April 2021  

Thank you, AO! Amidst the freneticism and arm-wrestle of our often combative exchange, I never fail to admire the affirmative scriptural voice you gently offer to all who post here. 'Blessed are the Peace-makers for they will be called the children of God' (Matt, 5:9)


Michael Furtado | 11 April 2021  

And likewise to you MF! Consciousness of oneself is at the same time consciousness of all. Emmanuel Levinas.


AO | 12 April 2021  

Best band of all times! Thank you, Pink Floyd. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrojrDCI02k


AO | 13 April 2021  

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