By Robin Gomes
The Catholic Church of India asserts that Good Friday can never be ignored or erased from memory as long human beings continue to suffer injustices, oppression and exploitation. “Those who thought they had silenced the voice of the innocent, the cries of the deprived and the wails of the marginalized had not imagined that there would be an Easter,” wrote Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, the Secretary-General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the apex body of the Catholic Church in the country.
He made the comment in a Good Friday message scheduled for broadcast on state All India Radio (AIR).
Good Friday, a public holiday in India, is a holy day for Christians when they commemorate the suffering, passion and death of Jesus on the cross. It will culminate into their holiest feast, Easter, the celebration of Christ’s triumphant rising from death.
Good Friday continues
In his message, Bishop Mascarenhas quotes India’s 1913 Nobel Laureate in Literature, Rabindranath Tagore, from his poem on Jesus Christ, “The Son of Man”: “He feels that the age-long moment of His death has not yet ended, that new nails, turned out in countless numbers by those who are learned in cunning craftsmanship, pierce Him in every joint. They had hurt Him once, standing at the shadow of their temple; they are born anew in crowds.”
“Good Friday continues in our midst,” the bishop says. “The murder of Jesus, officially approved by the rulers, is the climax of a hate campaign which fortunately for humanity resulted in the defeat of hate by love, of injustice by forgiveness, of darkness by light.”
He enumerates how Good Friday continues to be enacted with hatred in our days, such as in the Feb. 14 terrorist attack on soldiers in Pulwama, Kashmir, or when mobs are allowed to attack and kill people because of their religion, caste or for possessing or carrying a certain type of meat.
Recently, Prakash Lakra, a tribal from Jharkhand state, was attacked and killed by a mob and three others were injured on suspicion of possessing a certain type of meat. There was also an attack on the Little Flower School in Tamil Nadu state, and Missionary of Charity Sister Concilia is languishing in jail in Ranchi on false charges.
Bishop Mascarenhas warns that “the agony of Good Friday will be extended to other unsuspecting people unless evil minds are stopped from planning and plotting terrorist acts against blameless citizens.”
Good Friday lives on in love and forgiveness
However, the Indian bishops’ official says, Good Friday lives on today because it also embodies “selflessness and forgiveness”. Jesus’ words on the Cross, “Father Forgive them for they know not what they are doing”, “set the benchmark of how the power of love and forgiveness can overthrow the powers of evil.”
St. John Paul II who forgave the man who shot and wounded him, and Gladys Staines, the Australian missionary who forgave the killers of her husband and two young sons in India in 1999, he says, are examples of this love and forgiveness.
“Good Friday is not the end,” Bishop Mascarenhas says. “It is the beginning of a new life, of a victory over death of Easter joy that replaces the darkness preceding and following Good Friday.”