By Fr Paul Melwyn, Pamedi, Capuchin
Apr 3: In his famous lecture ‘Christ, the Messenger’ delivered in Los Angeles in 1900 Swamy Vivekananda, the finest Messiahof Hinduism said:“If I, as an Oriental have to worship Jesus of Nazareth, there is only one way, that is, to worship him as God and nothing else.” Admiring Jesus with awe and wonder the prophet of non-violence Mahatma Gandhi once narrated: “I believe that he (Jesus) belongs not solely to Christianity but to the entire world, to all races and people, it matters little under what flag, name or doctrine they may work, profess a faith or worship a God inherited from their ancestors.”
Two mighty luminous figures of Hinduism, acknowledged Jesus as divine and rendered him due homage and worthy adoration. On ‘Good Friday,’ also known as ‘Holy Friday,’ Christians remember the death of Jesus the Son of God on the cross and worship and adore Him.‘God is dead,’ seems a persistent theme expressed by Nietzsche toward the end of the nineteenth century. In 1882,philosopher Friderich Nietzsche wrote a parable known as ‘The Parable of the Mad Man.’ In this parable he declared “God is dead.”
But who believes it? Who is convinced of it? In our times, the vandalisation of temples, desecration of churches, demolition of mosques, burning of sacred scriptures, and incidents like pelting stones at places of worship are on rise. Violence committed, terror executed, hatred nourished, and unspeakable fear created, all in the name God, in the name of religion, in the name of sect, in the name of nation that is raised to religion convince us that the adage ‘God is dead’ far from true.
People claim to be serving the cause of God, become warriors and His defenders. With swords and bows, guns and pistols, knives and daggers, bombs and chemical explosives in hands some are determined to kill the other who does not believe in God they believe.Some even claim to know where exactly God dwells,whether in temple or in mosque or in church or in any other place of worship. All religions proclaim that God is present everywhere and there is divine element in each person. But, the presence of God is conveniently forgotten, purpose of religion is dubiously deviated and instead of perceiving divine element in the other, one sees in him/her demon or enemy.
Today, one cannot walk alone, couples or two friends cannot move together, and a group cannot travel together, work together and celebrate together. If you walk alone you are kidnapped, abducted, robbed and raped worse if you are a girl child, young or old. If couple or two friends go together,eyes of some become sectarian, doubt and suspicion becometheir religious belief and attack and assault on them become their religious practice. You come together for a purpose, to study, to play, to tour, to dance and to celebrate, such events are labelled as Western culture, you are influenced by foreign culture, and you pollute and contaminate native culture.
Now what these above mentioned happenings have to do with ‘Good Friday?’ Ram Manohar Lohia (1910-1967), a political leader, freedom fighter, socialist leader and an activist for the Indian independence movement, once said, I am deeply touched by “the imageries of Christ on the cross and all that it has meant to billions and trillions of Christians.” Further, he went on to say, “Christ is undoubtedly a figure of love and suffering than which there has been no nobler figure in all history. Buddha and Socrates are probably greater in wisdom or even in fine feeling. But are they greater in love? The Christian God is undoubtedly capable of acting as one symbol of unity of love for all tortured mankind.”Referring to Crucifixion M.C. Parekh in his book “A Hindu Portrait of Jesus Christ” writes “this is a tragedy which has no parallel in history, though elements thereof are found in small or big measure in every human life. Lives of Prophets, Saints and Martyrs furnish us with something of a parallel to this though of a slender kind.”
God did not come down as religion with dogmas and beliefs. He did not dwell among us as law to punish and reward; to ban and to revoke. He did not form himself as an ‘ideology’ to be believed and followed. He did not become a nation where only natives are believers and others aliens. Rather, Christians believe that God became man in Jesus of Nazareth. God entered into our finitude. He suffered violent death of the criminal on the cross to reveal God’s mercy and forgiveness.
It is on ‘Good Friday’ on the cross Jesus set an example how to die and not how to kill. He set an example how to love and not how to hate. On the day of his crucifixion of Jesus, those who hated him, were never satisfied. Their dislike, animosity, and anger was all the more increasing when Jesus was dying on the cross. They became sarcastic and sadist. Profanity was their language filled curses and jeers. His death was a combination of dehydration, exposure, and suffocation, which even the sun did not want to see, it darkened and earth could not withstand, it trembled. But He returned love for hatred.Jesus died loving. He returned prayer for curse. Jesus died praying. He forgave his enemies. Jesus died forgiving. He offered nonviolence for violence. Jesus died blessing.
Blessed Mother Teresa who served the poor, helpless, and sick irrespective of religion died serving, died loving, died praying. In fact, suffering of the abundaoned, poor, helpless, sick and old transformed her life. In them she saw suffering Jesus. Gladys Staines widow of burnt alive Graham Staines and their two sons could forgive the killer. That grace and strength to forgive she received from the Cross of Christ. Samandhar Singh who stabbed to death Sr. Rani Maria in 1995 was offered forgiveness by her family members. Certainly the family of Sr. Rani derived the power of forgiveness from the ‘Good Friday’ event.Changed and transformedSamandhar even made a bold and convincing statement: “I can say without a doubt that the missionaries do nothing but work and help the poor and the marginalized. They have not secret design, other than serve God.” In West Bengal a 71-year old religious nun who was the victim of gang rape a couple of weeks ago, has forgiven coward and perverted men. That magnanimous gesture could come from her, only because she believes that blood of Jesus heals the wounded humanity.
It looks, the present deadly events do not lead to safer and better world.The most frightening thing about the treacherous deeds that we experience today is, they are deliberately planned, well prepared, and minutely executed to generate violence, instill fear and hate. Buddha condemned violence and hate thus: “Not by hate is hate destroyed; by love alone is hate destroyed. ”That’s the loud message given by Jesus from the cross: God is love and He isnon-violent. Did not Mahatma Gandhi say Jesus is the fullest expression of non-violence?
Jesus went about doing goodby teaching, healing, feeding and comforting people. He had done nothing deserving death. He was innocent. Yet suffered and died. Jesus who was born to do good (love), lived to do good (love), died to do good (love), and now reigns to bless us to become channel of peace, channel of love channel of tolerance and channel of non-violence.