In the synoptic versions of the Passion narrative, the crucifixion of Jesus takes place the day after the celebration of Passover. In the Gospel of John, which we will hear on Good Friday, the Gospel clearly states that his death is on the day of preparation, the eve of the Passover feast.
This is not the place to consider which account is historically correct, but we can say with certainty that by placing the death of Jesus on the day of preparation, when Jesus is on the cross, the Passover lambs are sacrificed for the celebration of Passover the next day. . Thus, the Gospel implicitly informs us that Jesus is the Passover Lamb of God, who takes on the violence of the world to ensure that, as in the story of the Exodus of the people of Israel, death “passes over them, to ensure their freedom from slavery. By acknowledging Jesus as our paschal lamb, we are freed from sin and death. But our liberation is not achieved by an aggressive act, but by the passive acts of his death and resurrection.
The events we celebrate in our Holy Week Liturgies are the ultimate expression of nonviolent resistance. It should come as no surprise that the early Church avoided violence and participation in military action. Their newfound freedom as children of God united in baptism with a crucified and risen Christ was not obtained by violence.
So what does the above mean in the face of the horrors of war in Ukraine. I haven’t heard anyone say that the Ukrainian people should allow Putin’s outright aggression not to oppose, but I can also understand the fear of escalating violence across the European continent. The events of the past few weeks have validated for me these words of Pope Francis in Fratelli Tutti para 261:
“Every war leaves our world worse than it was before. War is a failure of politics and of humanity, a shameful surrender, a crushing defeat before the forces of evil. Let’s not get bogged down in arguments let us touch the wounded flesh of the Let us once again look at all those civilians whose murders have been considered “collateral damage”. Let us question the victims themselves. Let us think of the refugees and the displaced, of those who have suffered the effects of the atomic radiation or chemical attack, to mothers who have lost their children, and to boys and girls maimed or deprived of their childhood.”
I recently read “You Matter: The Human Solution” published by Delia Smith. Inspired by the writings of Maslow, Frankl and the Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin, Smith asserts that we must all take responsibility for developing our maturity, seeking a deep sense of solidarity and unity with one another if the common good and the environment must be supported. Smith was clearly inspired by the strong sense of care, dedication and service shown by so many during the pandemic. But seeing the horrors of war and how human beings can inflict such barbaric and cruel suffering on others, especially children and vulnerable people, I realize that we still have a lot to do to grow!
In the thought of Patrick Deneen which causes the failure of liberalism, he reminds us that the modern meaning of freedom, that of avoiding any restriction on our activities, is very different from the classical and Christian meaning of freedom, which consists in become aware and shape our passions and our appetites so as not to be slaves to them. It is these unbridled collective appetites of our world that are damaging our planet and creating fierce competition for limited resources, which is the source of so much poverty and violence, creating such a strong “culture of death”. In John Dear’s reflection on the raising of Lazarus in the Gospel of John, he sees Jesus confronted with this culture of death. Jesus’ call for Lazarus to come out of a place of death and be set free is for all of us.
During Holy Week, let us be attentive to “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. Standing in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and all victims of war, let us be free from any insatiable demands we may have and be deeply attentive to the needs and dignity of others, seeking the path of true cooperation and not competition. It may seem so insignificant in the face of the horrors of war, but it is the way of the Paschal Lamb, totally anchored in the love of the Creator, who in his self-sacrifice frees us from all destructive powers. It is the ultimate source of true peace and the true model of collective human maturity, which unfortunately is still badly needed.
Chris Hughes is parish priest at St Cuthbert’s and St Joseph’s, North Shields in the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. He is also co-chair of Tyne and Wear Citizens and a member of Church Action on Poverty North East.
The National Justice and Peace Network (NJPN) annual conference from July 22-24, 2022 has the theme “Hope is a verb with rolled up sleeves”. Book now on: www.justice-and-peace.org.uk/conference/
Keywords: Father Chris Hughes, Peace, Delia Smith
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