The past week saw us priests in many parts of the island, and I am sure other parts of the world as well, hearing confession after confession in penitential services in parishes and other similar settings. This wonderful opportunity offers, en masse, the healing touch of God’s salve of forgiveness and mercy to the wounded souls and hearts of the faithful.
What I noticed in so many confessions is a certain problem that seems to plague very many penitents, and I must admit that even I have succumbed to it on more than a few occasions. It is anger that I am talking about.
So many people have come to confession, admitting that they have allowed anger to take over them; almost swallowing them up on numerous occasions, and sometimes, this had led to their abusing (perhaps not physically) others. I always try to stress to these folk that the feeling of anger is not a sin, as it is just that – a feeling. Feelings have no morality attached to them. It’s when feelings give in to and lead us into dark violence that sin takes over us like the way a dark cloud breaks into pelting rain over the landscape called life. Where can we find an alternative to this violence that seems to consume so many of us? What is the way out? Is there one?
The mystery that is Good Friday is, as one spiritual writer put it so graphically, akin to a carefully cut diamond. The brilliance that each facet reveals depends on the angle of light that bounces off each of its multifarious surfaces. But what really gives the Cross the brilliance that no beautiful earthly gem can reveal is the resplendence of God’s non-violence. The cross of Calvary upon which hung the Saviour of the World radiates non-violence precisely because it had absorbed all the violence of the world in Christ’s dramatic decision to love. Why does every scene of the Calvary moment, every image of the crucifix, every depiction of the suffering bruised, bleeding, beaten and agonizing God-man seem to steal our breath away? Because what is beyond words, what is beyond a cheap title or explanation is the immense depth of the non-violent nature of God and the non-violent nature of divine love.
When we don’t ponder enough at what is being revealed at Christ’s crucifixion, we will probably end up repeating what caused him to end up there on the first Good Friday. Each one of our displays of anger that have caused a hurt or a wound in our fellow man becomes in a similar way, the very reason Christ was nailed to the Cross. The Goodness that Good Friday reveals is that despite the injustice, despite the unfairness, despite the false accusations and jealousies, God did not and will not retaliate with violence. It was a conscious choice not to do so. And unless we appreciate this over and over again, we will do just the opposite of what Jesus chose not to do that Friday two thousand years ago.
Of course, it is of no credit to us Christians that we missed this point by more than a mile when we look back at the nefarious and egregious acts of violence that have dotted our own history, where ‘holy wars’ have been waged, using shamelessly, God’s name. It raises the question whether there really are such things as ‘just’ wars. Hopefully, the more we learn about our dark past, the more we will realize that history must not repeat itself.
That is why we need to constantly do as a community what the Good Friday liturgy invites us to do. To behold the wood of the Cross, and to see its revelation by the celebrant part by part by part, till it is fully exposed for us to worship and adore. To kneel before the Cross and to allow its deafening silence of non-violence to whisper its message and power into our closed ears and hearts.
The more anger we harbour in ourselves, the more we need to worship before the Cross of Christ.