Thursday, April 13, 2017

Holy Week: Fear of the Gospel

by José María Castillo (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Teología Sin Censura Blog
April 9, 2017

One of the things that is clearest in the stories of the Lord's passion, of which the Church reminds us in these Holy Week days, is the fear of the Gospel. Yes, Jesus' life scares us. Because, after all, what does not admit any doubt is that this way of living -- if the gospels are the true recollection of what happened there -- led Jesus to end his days having to accept the most repugnant destiny a society can adjudicate: the fate of a executed criminal (G. Theissen).

Jesus' death was not a "religious sacrifice." Moreover, it can be asserted that Jesus' death, as told in the gospels, was opposed to what one might understand, in that culture, by a holy sacrifice. Any religious sacrifice, at that time, had to fulfill two conditions: it had to take place in the temple (in the sacred) and it had to be done in compliance with the norms of a religious ritual. Neither of these two conditions was met in the death of Jesus.

Moreover, Jesus was crucified not between two "thieves" but between two "lestaí", a Greek word we know was used to designate not just "bandits" (Mk 11:17 par; Jn 28:40) but also "political rebels" (Mk 15:27 par) as F. Josephus warns (H.W. Kuhn, X. Alegre). That's why it's understood that in his final and decisive hour Jesus was betrayed and abandoned by everyone -- the people, the disciples, the apostles ... The latter, as a religious, had the feelings of Jesus himself. And we know that his strongest sentiment was the awareness of being abandoned even by God (Mt 27:46, Mk 15:34). Jesus' life happened in a way that ended like this: alone, helpless, abandoned.

What does all this tell us? Holy Week tells us, in the biblical texts we read these days, that Jesus came to put into question the reality in which we live. The violent, cruel reality, in which "the law of the strongest" is imposed against "the law of all the weak."

We know that Paul of Tarsus interpreted the mythical story of Adam's sin as the source and explanation of Jesus' death to redeem us from our sins (Rom 5:12-14; 2 Cor 5:12-14). It's the interpretation of preachers, who focus our attention on the salvation from heaven. That's good. But it has the danger of diverting our attention from the tragic reality we are experiencing. The reality of the violence suffered by the "nobodies", the corruption of those who rule and, above all, the silence of those who know these things and keep quiet so as not to lose their power, ranks and privileges.

The beauty, the fervor, the devotion of our sacred liturgies and our confraternities remind us of the passion of the Lord. But do they call into question the harsh reality that so many millions of human beings are living? Do they remind us of the life that led Jesus to his final failure? Or do they distract us with devotions, aesthetics and traditions that use the "memoria passionis" -- the "dangerous memory" of Jesus -- to have a good time in good conscience?

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