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Opinions of Sunday, 27 March 2016

Columnist: George Sydney Abugri

Jesus, drunken soldiers and bloody Good Friday

At noon on Friday, Christians will hold services to mark those last agonising hours when drunken Roman soldiers, who had grabbed axes and hacked a gallows cross out of a dead tree, would make Jesus carry it sweating blood for kilometres all the way up to Golgotha, where they would nail him to it! As has now been fully understood by many in the Christian world, our sins had much to do with the murder of Jesus.

My own sins overwhelm me so much that I keep wondering how the darned hell someone like me could ever get to Heaven. It could only happen through God’s mercy and grace, I guess. Even there, there is a big monkey wrench of a catch in the works, I am afraid: That a soul could get into Heaven reeking of sin the way a friend’s nephew used to stink like a distillery on pay day, is unimaginable.

It would most certainly be unfair to God, the angels, saints and all the souls in Heaven. It would be no different from the case of a street vagabond who somehow has had a bucketful of excreta from a public toilet poured over him, but who nevertheless wants to be welcomed into the presence of a great king or President in his mansion, all in the name of the king's mercy. It most likely won't ever work that way!

Refraining from sin

I read Swedenbourg the other day. The chap has argued that sins cannot be taken away from a man except by genuine repentance which consists in first seeing his sins, imploring God's forgiveness and help and then desisting from them.

That means I have a big problem on my hands. It means I have to shun each and everyone of the sins I am drowning in. I must not only begin to truly hate each one of them, but refrain from them altogether and out of my own free will.

Smart fellow was Swedenbourg! He noted that there were those who knew for a certainty that their sins were unavoidably leading them straight to hell so what did they do? They confessed their sins and prayed to God according to the doctrine of their church, asking God's mercy and forgiveness in the name of Jesus who suffered and died on the cross to atone for their sins.

Unfortunately, much of such prayers for forgiveness "is of the lungs and not of the heart", the man declared. Why? Well many only pray and even fast but do not give up the sin.

Jesus Christ

Being one of such people, I now stagger under the massive weight of my many sins, too weak, unable or even unwilling to dump them in the drain. Where does that leave me? When a man is stuck in a rut like this, and all the chips are down and the odds stacked up to the sky and the horizon is so dark, one last straw is left: To hope for a miracle. The best bet, I reckon is only the original Miracle Maker Himself: Jesus.

For some, Jesus Christ was only a great prophet. Like old boy Elijah and the rest of them before Jesus. Historians and masters of great philosophical thought perceived Christ as a man whose teaching and thought radically changed the course of history. They admit the kind of world it would have been today if Christ had not come. That is all they will offer by way of faith, if we can call it that!

Then there are those who proclaim and testify to having a close friendship with Jesus and daily walking with Him as surely as if it were 2000 years ago. Surely, the man who defied death can defy time and space. Is that not the crux of Easter? The risen Christ?

The evidence

All that was written about the coming of Christ in the Old Testament came to pass. While he was alive, he told his disciples he would die and rise on the third day. It is doubtful that they understood at the time. He told his enemies the same thing.

When he told them he would build the temple in three days if it was destroyed, they thought he spoke of the temple building. When he rose from the dead his enemies tried to make the people believe his body had been stolen but Jesus appeared to several people, including his own apostles. That was the evidence needed to seal the story of Easter.

In his last days, Judas betrayed Jesus, Peter denied him, his apostles abandoned him and fled and those who had welcomed him singing "hosanna" cried "crucify him!"

In a homily at Mass, Father Andrew Campbell once told his congregation not to be in a hurry to judge those who did all those indescribably cruel things to Jesus. Many Christians, he said, behaved the same way towards Jesus today. Even as they praise Jesus for graces and blessings received, they betray him everyday in the way they live.

Whoever will follow Jesus cannot do so without his own daily cross, can he? A Diocesan priest once told his congregation one Sunday to bring a crucifix each to church the following Sunday for him to illustrate a point about Jesus’s cross. Everyone came with a crucifix improvised from wood or broom sticks, except one fellow.

As he passed by, the priest asked him in a whisper where his crucifix was. The man crooked a thumb and stabbed it quickly in the direction of his wife who did not see what her husband had done. The bloke was telling the priest that his wife was his daily cross!

Maybe the good woman thought the same of him, who knows? Everyone has a cross: An ungrateful spouse, poverty, persecution, hatred, over-whelming responsibilities, personal tragedies… Blessed is the man who suffers all carrying his cross without complaining too much. If he is such a big sinner like me, a saving miracle may be coming yet. So up with your cross and let us hit the road to Golgotha. No death, no everlasting life!