Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 24, 2000
Christians ward off the angel of death
It is Easter. The tomb is empty. The disciples no longer need to hide in fear in chambers, catacombs or fortified places of worship. Last week the Way of the Cross was re-enacted publicly in centres all over the country.
Over the last 20 years the Edmonton Way of the Cross has attracted growing numbers of faithful from different denominations who in song and prayer and commitment make the connection between the good news proclaimed on Sunday and the not-so-good news we receive daily on our television sets.
I remember the first Way of the Cross in 1981 as it wound from downtown across the High Level Bridge to the university. We prayed in public, carrying a big cross, gave thanks for all that's good, and expressed sorrow for our failures.
Then proceeding in procession down the bridge, we met a man whose failures were too much to bear, his cross a bitter burden. He longed to shed this yoke of living on the edge in one mad final leap.
He hesitated when the holy horde of hundreds, singing hymns, led by the Franciscan with the plywood cross, approached the place where he had thought himself alone.
"Are you the Jesus, friend," he asked, "the one I seek?" And thinking of the God within us, the friar said, "Today we all are Jesus." Then like a Simon of Cyrene, the outcast marched up front. His shoulders bore our hollow cross, much lighter than his own.
Having prevented this apparent suicide gave special legitimacy to our public demonstration of faith. No such startling interventions were to occur again in subsequent years as far as I know. But there are other ways to live out our faith.
Bishop Frederick Henry has given us a refreshing example in Calgary of how the Gospel is relevant to contemporary issues.
Easter has to be more than the solemn commemoration of a 2,000-year-old event. It is a time to come out of our shell by joyfully proclaiming what we stand for and by whom we stand in this Via Dolorosa or with whom we travel on the road to Emmaus.
There is much hope in the fact that the faithful are no longer just hiding in the temple praying for the salvation of their souls. Many have boldly come out in the open to show their colours by smearing the blood of the lamb on their doorposts as a symbol of hope and solidarity, to again ward off the angel of death.
This month, Christians of every stripe gathered in Washington to denounce the International Monetary Fund and its oppression of the poor.
In November, equally committed people gathered in Seattle to protest the way the corporate elite tried to grab more power for itself through the World Trade Organization.
Some Abrahamic minorities are prepared to sacrifice their personal freedom to "set the captives free." Father Roy Bourgeois and his friends have repeatedly been jailed for demanding the closure of the School of the Americas.
On Dec. 19, Philip Berrigan, now 76, was arrested for the umpteenth time for resisting the empire's priority spending on war.
"I cannot forget the children dying in Iraq," he said, "and the children dying of depleted uranium in Kosovo." If this is the fasting that is wanted from us then it doesn't end with Easter. It is where it begins.
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