By Eric Martin
The question asked of parishioners at St Mary’s Cathedral on Good Friday focused attention on our personal response to God’s love in our lives; what led the people of Jesus’ time to crucify a man who shared a message of peace, healing and relationship with God the Father?
“In asking the question of why Jesus had to die, I am thinking more of the disturbing paradox that a man whose whole life was one of love, of self-giving, and of peace, should provoke so much bitterness, opposition and hatred,” Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB explained in his homily on 19 April.
Archbishop Costelloe was joined at the celebration of the Lord’s Passion with concelebrants Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton, Cathedral Dean Rev Dr Sean Fernandez, Vicar for Clergy Fr Brian McKenna, various Archdiocesan priests, and assisted by Deacon Paul Russell.
“It is amazing that some of the most bitter opposition emerged because of his miracles of healing, especially if they took place on the Sabbath Day, when one interpretation of the religious law insisted that not even good work could be performed,” he said.
“We struggle to understand how people can be so consumed by hatred, or fear, or ignorance that even miracles which set people free to live life fully and joyfully can be ignored or interpreted so negatively.”
And yet, Archbishop Costelloe continued, this is exactly the kind of response we all too often see in the attitudes of modern society and the vilification of the Church and her clergy in the media, and it is one that we need to guard against in our own lives.
“There is a phrase which occurs often in our scriptures which, although it doesn’t explain it, does capture very well what seems to be happening,” he said. “It is the phrase ‘hardness of heart’.”
“Already in the Old Testament God is spoken of as the one who wants to take away from his people their hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh instead.
“Hardness of heart is a sickness which stops us from seeing things as they really are.”
Archbishop Costelloe went on to share the story of the blind man – whose simple, direct faith allowed him to approach Jesus with the clear expectation of a miracle, that his sight would be restored by the Messiah – urging Catholics to adopt the same attitude of openness this Easter.
“Jesus’ response was immediate: ‘Go; your faith has made you well’,” he explained.
“Whenever someone came to him with faith, humility, and a recognition of his or her own helplessness and need, as the blind man did, Jesus reached out with grace and healing.”
Even on the Cross, as he was dying, the Lord responded with grace to the pleas of the thief crucified beside him on Calvary, when the criminal reached out with faith and humility praying: “Lord remember me as you come into your kingdom”.
Once again, Jesus response was immediate: “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise”.