Between memory and hope

CHENNAI, MARCH 25 . Unmerited suffering of the innocent is an eternal riddle. Humanity at all ages and times had to grapple with this question. Suffering could make the victim a sceptic and lead to loss of hope, and experience of frustration. None of this happened to the man whose violent death we commemorate as Good Friday. Jesus was not a masochist either who delighted in suffering; nor was he a stoic who could remain passionless before pain, violence and death. His deep compassion towards the suffering and deprivation of others could bring tears rolling down his cheeks. He would wipe away the tears from every eye. "Blessed are those who suffer for the sake of righteousness," is what he proclaimed in his Sermon on the Mount. His crucifixion is the best testimony to how far the thirst for righteousness could lead.

Of course, there was a way open for Jesus to be spared of suffering and death, and it was the way of compromise with truth and connivance with the injustice of the established order. He relied on the power of suffering to conquer evil and triumphed. He did not follow the comfort of the trodden path, but scaled the cross to see the endless horizons of the world of righteousness, freedom, peace and justice. These he knew were written in the alphabets of suffering. This suffering and death of Jesus continues in the sufferings of the victims of our world across all nations, languages and religions - the "crucified people", who represent the hope for a different world.

The triumph and vision of a different world echoed in the words of Jesus hanging on the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." In a world where revenge and violence carry the day, and are viewed as a matter of honour and strength, the message of forgiveness may sound unfashionable. But, in fact, revenge wants to restore the old, while forgiveness sows the seeds for the future — new relationships and a new civilisation built, not on self-seeking but on self-giving love, understanding and solidarity.

Generations of men and women in every part of the world, tormented by suffering and pain, anguish and fear turn to the cross. They unburden their hearts on it and derive strength and solace from the cross hallowed by the Man of God. There is then no paradox in referring to the memory of Jesus' violent death as Good Friday. It is indeed Good Friday.

Felix Wilfred, Chennai

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