Easter is the time we recall the tragic events of two thousand and nineteen years ago when a Jew, a man from Palestine, was spied upon, betrayed, persecuted, falsely charged, vilified, abandoned and arrested. It started in a mock trial that handed down the death penalty for the man from Nazareth, the Son of Man, a Son of God, Jesus.
We also celebrate the resilience, the determination and the belief and hope of the persecuted and oppressed to rise up and speak out and challenge the forces of their oppression.
They that suffer on a cross of oppression can rise to a new life. These are the brave and courageous seekers of truth and freedom and live in hope of justice and true democracy and equality.
Jesus overcame the power of death and his spirit lives among us, inspiring and encouraging all to put his values into action for social and political transformation to create a just society however distant that reality may be. He was a simple teacher of values. He taught by stories and he was a social activist who spoke against the evils of the authorities, spoke truth to power and he paid the price. He was a critic and a threat to the authorities having exposed their hypocrisy, ill-gotten wealth and evil ways.
The followers of Jesus of Nazareth were falsely accused and the corrupt authorities spread black propaganda against them. The nation’s leaders called him and his followers ‘enemies of the state’ to be crushed, killed and eliminated. Today, many seekers of justice and truth suffer the same.
There was widespread persecution of Christians then and even in these modern times. Why is this so when all they are doing is good? The early Christians led by Jesus were teaching moral values, social justice, equality, the dignity of women and children, just wages for workers, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, challenging the rich to share with the poor and to create a just society and giving hope and happiness to many people.
The authorities and corrupt elite were guilty of stealing from the temple coffers and nation and they spied, harassed and condemned Jesus, an innocent critic condemned to death while they, the corrupt elite, were wearing a mask of pious virtue and draped in a cloak of hypocrisy. Much is so true today.
They declared they were saving the nation and that Jesus should be executed to save the nation. To save it from what social justice, love, healing and compassion and forgiveness? Today, like him, human rights workers, church people, outspoken truth-seeking clerics are vilified and condemned.
Jesus grew up, the son of a carpenter, a humble but very wise man, a prodigy some say, with incredible insight, compassion, understanding, and knowledge of human nature. His dramatic message was that of equality among all, the rich had to share so the poor would no longer be poor and social justice would reign and oppression would end. Today, societies are far from this standard.
He challenged the ruling powers in Jerusalem. The people lived in fear of the tyranny of the rich elite. Yet even today, despite this same oppression and persecution, true Christians and believers in the principles of justice and the rule of just law have the courage to take a stand for life. They fight for human rights and dignity, the environment, the poor and the indigenous people. People are resisting peacefully and taking a stand. This is the only real meaning of being a true Christian or a person of principle. Let’s be one with them.
Attending the Easter rites could be a spiritual experience yet it is more of a cultural event as Catholicism ever closer adheres to rites that most people don’t understand. We ought to be making a spiritual and practical commitment to act for the values of the Gospel and the struggle for social justice that Jesus promoted and died for.
Before the arresting officers arrived to take away this good loving person to torture and crucify on a cross, he left behind a simple reminder of the values that he lived and died for. He had a Jewish Passover meal, which he turned into a simple meal of friendship with his followers and friends. Do this in memory of me, he said.
He is still alive and his spirit is upon us who believe. When we do join in the Last Supper, let us recall, he was a washer of feet, a servant to all and he gave us human dignity and the chance to serve the people in need.