THE MOST sombre day of Holy Week is Good Friday, which is marked today. For Christians, it is a holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary. It stands at the heart of the Easter Triduum which began yesterday evening and ends on Sunday.
Mass is not celebrated today by Roman Catholics, Anglicans will have no prayer of consecration, Methodists will don black, Lutherans will strip their altars and wear no vestments. Despite the differences between the churches, all coalesce around the figure of Jesus and the idea of sacrifice on the cross.
Such an idea comes at a time when there is so much that calls for attention and sacrifice in our country. The racism laid bare over the last few days is just one part of a distressing picture. Crime remains unacceptably high. Inequalities continue to plague us. Deteriorating infrastructure, poor healthcare, an economy that is still too reliant on the artificial props provided by make-work programmes and subventions. But the story of Jesus is perhaps most powerful when we interpret it as a cautionary tale about the dangers of a criminal justice system gone haywire.
Jesus, as Christians familiar with the Bible will tell you, was sentenced to death, not by a court but by a crowd. Imagine the chaos. No jury. No judge. No formalities. Just a mob shouting for blood. A group of people who had, only one week prior, welcomed him with palms. The failure of Pontius Pilate, who had the power to enforce the rules, was not only a moral one. It was an abdication of lawful authority.
What lessons can be gleaned about our criminal justice system? A system where delays, overcrowding, and the disproportionate enforcement of laws against society’s more vulnerable populations continue to warp the notion of justice. Where the victims of crime are yet to get justice. Where all too often the presumption of innocence is thrown out the window through administrative malaise, as well as by our tendency to judge without evidence; to take rumour as fact.
This is in no way an apology for criminals. On the contrary, Good Friday’s message of sacrifice is in stark contrast to the selfishness that allows a person to rob another of their hard-earned property just to buy a ticket to go to a concert. We simply seek to call for more justice and more healing.
Today, let the face of Christ be found in the face of the homeless, the hungry, the poor, the abused children, the battered, the discriminated, the refugee, the trafficked. Let the pain they suffer be mediated by the hope that they will soon, through our collective efforts, rise again.