By Fr Charles Furtado, Capuchin
Apr 5: The catastrophic news of Germanwings air-crash on March 24, 2015 (not naming the person responsible, to defeat his very purpose!) is quite fresh in our minds. It shocked many a person in the world. It took 150 precious lives, so unexpectedly and suddenly. So gruesome its impact was, not a single body was found intact, and it took a tedious long procedure and time to collect strewn body parts and identify them by DNA tests. And, it goes without saying, that for the dear ones of the victims, it was a never ending time of suffering with anxious waiting.
There is yet another shocking event, reviving the horrific news these days, as the sentence is passed on the criminal on April 1, 2015, involving a retired police officer, Detlev Guenzel, 56, from the same country, who met a 59 year old volunteer, a Polish-born Wojciech Stempniewicz on website to be killed for cannibalism fetishists. It may be recalled, that he filmed himself cutting up the body with an electric saw, on November 04, 2013. Police later found body parts buried in his garden. According to the chief prosecutor Adreas Feron: He killed and dismembered him to get sexual stimulation and then later on to obtain the same by watching the video he made! He was sentenced to eight years and six months in prison. A possible 15 year sentence, usually the maximum in a murder case, was denied to him because Stempniewicz said he wanted to die. We can gauge how insane, sinful or sick the free world of awesome ever new possibilities of communications today is, by the fact that these two men came across each other in October 2013 on a website for slaughter and cannibalism fantasies billed as the '#1 site for exotic meat,' boasting of more than 3,000 registered members. The two kept in touch via emails, text messages and telephones before finally arranging the fatal date.
With these two horrendous events, of different proportions, mentioned above (one to one and one to 150), of course, there could be many more in the same country and every other, we are facing inconceivable paradoxes, complexities, and challenges in the modern world. Both these men are from Germany, well educated and employed. When we strive to grapple with some of the heartrending events, we often argue and blame it on poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment, for instance, in the famous Delhi rape case of Nirbhaya!
And often enough, we affirm a religious belief would have made a difference. We argue, that these criminals do not have faith or a religion, and so they do not have values to follow and live by. Whereas, those who believe in God, value human persons as sacred, and promote human life, dignity and rights. And those who do not believe in God are not sure of what is good and bad, as they do not have an ultimate reference to God’s will and values. They are led by their own flawed reason, wild fantasies, fluctuating feelings and capricious instincts. They construct their own weird and bizarre world reality, which proves ruinous, at times. True, as far it goes, but all this is challenged today by the good life of those so called ‘atheists’ or ‘unbelievers,’ and by the concrete lives of the believers, not to forget the ever menacing ISIS. Even the ‘religious’ can be vitiated and perverted. When all things fail to persuade us to do good and avoid evil at all times, at least, the common ‘humanity’ in us should be awakened to defy the injustice and harm we conscientiously plan out to inflict on innocent persons.
However, a genuine faith in the One True God who loves All should lead the believers to make best use of their freedom and responsibility to love and serve others, enrich and save others. People who had genuine faith committed and dedicated themselves to love, service and sacrifice and carved their names for eternity without ever intending to do so. Today misguided people seek instant success and glory and look for eccentric and shocking evil ways to make news and leave their names written in the books human history.
Catholics who are celebrating the resurrection of the Lord, are invited to reflect over the recent poignant and regretful events that challenge our faith. Though difficult, we are invited to pray for the victims as well as the criminals and forgive all to prove our faith in the risen Lord, and hope, in a peaceful life.
Our world reflects our personal and private world, the world of our families of broken relationships. This world can be no better than what we ourselves truly are, in our relationship with others, in our families, communities, institutions and societies. Hence, first of all, we are invited to set things right there, and then worry over or blame what’s going in the world.
The resurrection and reconciliation are closely knit events. One necessarily involves or implies the other. To believe in the resurrection signifies a belief that the reconciliation is possible. For Jesus sacrificed his life for reconciliation, peace and unity. Dying on the cross he reconciled heaven and earth, and everyone and everything in it.
Soon after his resurrection, the risen Lord went straight to meet his murderers with extended hands to hug them and imparted peace to them, and healed the broken relationship on the Good Friday. His repeated encounters with his disciples prove that he forgave them immediately and unconditionally too, without seeking to be forgiven. Understandably, human as they were, the disciples were slow and only eventually accepted the forgiveness offered gratuitously to them, and it is because of the reconciliation they could comprehend easily the fact of the resurrection. But the risen Lord pursued his mission to convince them that he is truly risen by the multiple encounters with them to be fully reconciled with them. As a result, both the facts of reconciliation as well as the resurrection filled them with inexplicable joy and peace, which is the unique experience of the reconciled ones, even today.
Thanks be to God, good many Christians are convinced of this message and live it out in their lives, offering forgiveness at any cost to be reconciled. They are a blessing and Good News to the world. They proclaim that reconciliation is possible because of our Lord, his death and resurrection. However, there are many others who live as if the Lord has not suffered and died for them, and he has not been raised by the Father with the power of the Holy Spirit. Our lord’s death and resurrection becomes ineffective and futile for them.
Resurrection is a truth to be lived out, and not just to be proclaimed. We are ‘dead’ in our broken relationships; we rise to a new life or come alive in our reconciliation. Life is a journey, from brokenness to healing, darkness to light, and death to life. It’s an Easter because every day we are on the way moving towards the risen Lord, dying to something and rising to a new life in him, cooperating with his grace and Spirit. If we live resurrected lives we will help others ‘who are dead’ and let others too be risen to ‘better, new and more fulfilled lives.’
More often than not, we too are unable to forgive ourselves, others, truly, and be prepared to receive the ever available forgiveness of the Lord and experience peace, joy and light of Easter. And no doubt, we entertain doubts on the resurrection, and always find it difficult to believe in the resurrection. In that case we are the most unfortunate ones who believe in the End of everything, in the oblivion, as we continue to be Christians but actually live without a hope in the life to come, and continue a ‘hopeless’ life without reconciliation.
If we believe in the risen Lord, the essence of what we believe invites us to follow the Lord in what he did, to forgive even the unforgivable and get reconciled and experience the true joy and peace of the resurrection and affirm our faith in the resurrection, and by our reconciled lives proclaim to the world that the Lord is truly risen. In the measure we are reconciled, the resurrection is possible! Fully reconciled and peaceful Christian lives are a telling testimony to the resurrection.