“Christ is the Life of the Rejected”

Mar 29, 2024

Twelve months ago, the Far East magazine had a striking picture of a young man, stripped down and tied to a cross in Fiji, while soldiers in mock cardboard uniforms alternately derided and worshipped him. It came from a Good Friday liturgy I had led.

I commented then: “this ‘Good Day’ will remain in my memory for many years, [as I].. marvel at the ingenuity of the Fijian people taking this story to themselves and presenting in a way that shakes one’s liturgical niceties, returning it to the physical, messy and ultimately loving day that it was.”

Since then, the Ukrainian people have continued to endure almost daily artillery, tank, drone and airstrikes, and have been joined by the peoples of Palestine, Israel, Sudan in undergoing similar, and often worse, horrors. One is tempted to wonder what goodness is left in the world, how ‘Good’ Friday – indeed any day – can truthfully bear that epithet.

In Easter 2020, while churches in most parts of the world remained closed due to COVID lockdowns, the English poet, singer-songwriter and Anglican priest, Ayodeji Malcolm Guite, distressed at not being able to lead or go to Church services, wrote a poem-meditation on the theme of “where the Risen Christ is to be found, if we cannot experience him in the Church community”.

He says:
He might have been a wafer in the hands
Of priests this day, or music from the lips
Of red-robed choristers, instead he slips
Away from church, shakes off our linen bands
To don his apron with a nurse: he grips
And lifts a stretcher, soothes with gentle hands
The frail flesh of the dying, gives them hope,
Breathes with the breathless, lends them strength to cope.

Christ is truly and surely in the hands of the nurses, doctors, aid workers who search through the rubble for the bodies of victims of conflicts, as he is in the prayers and protests of the many who call for help and justice for civilians caught in the crossfire of fear-mongering leaders.

Guite finishes his poem:
Good Friday happened in a thousand places
Where Jesus held the helpless, died with them
That they might share his Easter in their need,
Now they are risen with him, risen indeed.

This is what Easter is about. Christ is the Life of the rejected, the hopeless and violated. He is also the Hands of the carers, and the blessedness of “all who hunger and thirst for righteousness/justice” (Matt 5:6). Christ hanging on the Cross, has black skin, brown skin, white skin, speaks every language, and redeems every violation of goodness by absorbing its evil into his own perfect offering to God.

So, Good Friday is truly the most, “physical, messy… but ultimately loving” of all days – may we experience that this year, and may “Alleluia” be our Easter Song..

Fr Pat Colgan is from Belfast. He was ordained a Columban in 1994 and spent 18 years in Fiji before he was appointed to the Society’s General Council in 2012. He returned to Fiji in 2018 and is now based in Ireland.

First published in the March/April 2024 issue of the Far East magazine. To subscribe see: https://columbans.ie/far-east-magazine/

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