Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

The Newark Hispanic chapter of Pax Christi scheduled Six Stations of the Cross, in public, over a two mile route in Newark NJ today. This seems very true to the spirit of the thing.

Good Friday is one of only two observed religious holidays on the State of NJ calendar - the other is Christmas. Good Friday doesn't make  much sense as only observant Catholics pay much attention to it, & it used to be a very Gloomy Friday for some.   As a secular observance it's a three day weekend & an early start on Easter Spring break week for schools. But the library opens again tomorrow.  Coincidentally, today is also Earth Day. Earth Day would be a pretty good national holiday but for our propensity to turn every holiday into a retail shopping theme & excuse for going to the mall & big box stores.The manufacturers of lawn care products want  us to believe dumping bags of chemicals on a few hundred square feet of grass & then spraying the lawn with more chemicals & inundating it with thousands of gallons of water throughout July & August is Earth-friendly.

Paul Tillich, speaking on Pilate's response, "What is truth?" to Jesus saying "Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.":
Let me do something unusual from a Christian standpoint, namely, to express praise of Pilate—not the unjust judge, but the cynic and sceptic; and of all those amongst us in whom Pilate’s question is alive. For in the depth of every serious doubt and every despair of truth, the passion for truth is still at work. Don’t give in too quickly to those who want to alleviate your anxiety about truth. Don’t be seduced into a truth which is not really your truth, even if the seducer is your church, or your party, or your parental tradition. Go with Pilate, if you cannot go with Jesus; but go in seriousness with him! (The New Being, Chapter 8)
When I first read this - I was probably around 20, it was certainly a different spin on the matter. Pilate may have been a relatively sophisticated man. All we know for certain is that he was from a lower aristocratic class & his Prefecture in Palestine was dangerously clumsy. He was supposed to keep the peace so the Emperor could wring money out of the province. Secondarily, he could enrich himself by whatever opportunities were presented. Only the Roman occupiers were permitted to carry out executions. The smart move probably would have been tossing Jesus in a dungeon for awhile, until the Jewish urban elite cooled off, with the excuse that he needed to investigate the matter, & then sent him packing back to Nazareth.  The Disciples were not a brave, cohesive group at that moment. But according to the Gospels Pilate has a crucial part to play & he's not getting out of it.

Tillich is saying that one can step back on Good Friday & admit, "I don't understand what's going on here," because that's what Pilate was admitting, & one can do so without walking away from Christianity. There's a lot of story remaining, nobody except Jesus had a clue as to where the story was going, & even he had expressed some doubts. It isn't the "Son of God" who is crucified on Good Friday  but a dear friend & beloved teacher who had inadvisedly come to Jerusalem for Passover, angered some influential people to the extent they wanted him killed,  made some cryptic statements about his mission, &   hosted a rather baffling supper for his close followers,

Standing with Pilate is the honest choice, because nobody stood with Jesus except, at most, three women & perhaps an unnamed acquaintance, according to scripture. The three synoptic Gospels say they looked "from afar off," a reasonable decision since Roman law prohibited public expressions of mourning at executions. The best one could hope & pray for was that Jesus died quickly. There was no reason to believe he wouldn't stay dead.

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