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Via Crucis: Jesus continues to suffer and die today

April 10th, 2009
Asia News (www.asianews.it/)

In the meditations of Indian Bishop Menamparampil, the injustice, violence and persecution in society, but also the suffering that afflicts every man. The example of Christ, who teaches us not to respond to evil with evil, and to entrust ourselves, in prayer, to the Father.

VATICAN CITY (AsiaNews) - Jesus continues to suffer and die today, "when believers are persecuted, when justice is distorted in court, corruption gets rooted, unjust structures grind the poor, minorities are suppressed, refugees and migrants are ill-treated." The reality of much of Asia and the echo of the suffering of Christians in Orissa are reflected in the meditation of Thomas Menamparampil, bishop of Guwahati, whom Benedict XVI asked to write the texts for the Via Crucis this year.

And there is much of this reality in the sixth station, where it says that still today "Jesus’ garments are pulled away when the human person is put to shame on the screen, when women are compelled to humiliate themselves, when slum children go round the streets picking up crumbs," or, in the first, which says that "Jesus continues to suffer in his persecuted disciples. Pope Benedict XVI says that even in our times 'the Church does not lack martyrs'. Christ is in agony among us, and in our times." And not only in India, and not only in Asia.

The reflection, in fact, is extended to all forms of evil, to all forms of injustice in the world. Because "In every land, there have been innocent persons who suffered, people who died fighting for freedom, equality or justice" (third station), and "Jesus is humiliated in new ways even today: when things that are most Holy and Profound in the Faith are being trivialized; the sense of the sacred is allowed to erode; the religious sentiment is classified among unwelcome leftovers of antiquity."

"Everything in public life risks being desacralized: persons, places, pledges, prayers, practices, words, sacred writings, religious formulae, symbols, ceremonies. Our life together is being increasingly secularized. Religious life grows diffident. Thus we see the most momentous matters placed among trifles, and trivialities glorified. Values and norms that held societies together and drew people to higher ideals are laughed at and thrown overboard. Jesus continues to be ridiculed!" (seventh station). And "there are societies too that are thoughtless about their future. Christ must be weeping for their children. Wherever there is unconcern for the future, through the overuse of resources, the degradation of the environment, the oppression of women, the neglect of family values, the ignoring of ethical norms, the abandonment of religious traditions, Jesus must be telling people: 'Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children'" (ninth station).

But the example of the suffering Jesus is, in the reflection of Bishop Menamparampil, the main way in which he teaches us to face dramas and difficulties, great and small. Thus "violence is suicidal, he tells Peter: it is not defeated by more violence, but by a superior spiritual energy that reaches out in the form of healing love." "In times of conflict between persons, ethnic and religious groups, nations, economic and political interests, Jesus says, confrontation and violence are not the answer, but love, persuasion and reconciliation. Even when we seem to fail in such efforts, we plant the seeds of peace which will bear fruit in due time. The rightness of our cause is our strength" (second station).

"Jesus’ manner of struggling for justice is not to rouse the collective anger of people against the opponent, so that they are led into forms of greater injustice. On the contrary, it is to challenge the foe with the rightness of one’s cause and evoke the good will of the opponent in such a way that injustice is renounced through persuasion and a change of heart. Mahatma Gandhi brought this teaching of Jesus on non-violence into public life with amazing success" (third station). And "may the harassments that believers undergo complete in them the sufferings of Christ that bring salvation" (first station).

Experience also teaches that evil, even when it is "social," always causes suffering for people, and "pain always remains a challenge to us. We feel left alone. We forget to pray, and break down. Some even take their lives. But if we turn to God, we grow spiritually strong and go out to help our fellow-beings in trouble" (first station). And again, "bad health, bad news, bad luck, bad treatment – all can come together. It may have happened to us. It is at such moments we need to remember that Jesus never fails us. He cried to the Father. May we too cry out to the Father, who unfailingly comes to our rescue in all our distress, whenever we call upon him!" (tenth station).

"Tragedies make us ponder. A tsunami tells us that life is serious. Hiroshima and Nagasaki remain pilgrim places. When death strikes near, another world draws close. We then shed our illusions and have a grasp of the deeper reality. People in ancient India prayed: 'Lead me from the unreal to the real, from darkness to light, from death to immortality'. After Jesus left this world, Christians began to look back and interpret his life and mission. They carried his message to the ends of the earth. And this message itself is Jesus Christ, who is 'the power of God and the wisdom of God'. It says that the reality is Christ and that our ultimate destiny is to be with him" (fourteenth station).

This is demonstrated by the "millions of Christians from a humble background, with deep attachment to Christ. No glamour, no sophistication, but profound faith. Such believers keep rising on the soil of Africa, Asia and the distant islands. Vocations arise from their midst" (eighth station).

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