Crucified for Christ
In light of the Prime Minister’s realisation that Roman Catholics are the ‘conscience of the nation’ (was he including Tony Blair in that?), and recalling what wonders this Labour Government have done to Roman Catholics in the Cabinet, to their adoption agencies and schools, to the family, to the poor, and for the rights of the unborn child, it is worth reflecting today upon the Christians who are crucified for their faith.
Of course, the Archbishop of Canterbury was right to point out that there is no persecution in the UK which even begins to compare to that experienced by our brothers and sisters in countries such as Nigeria, Iraq, Egypt and Zimbabwe, who face ‘butchery and intimidation’ on a daily basis, and for whom taking up their cross may be quite literal.
And yet it would be unwise to ignore or play down Labour’s systematic eradication of Christian liberty, or what a hostile place this has become for those followers of Jesus who wish to ‘do God’ in the public realm. If Roman Catholics are indeed 'the conscience of the nation', they must be salt and light. So why does Gordon Brown crucify them?
The death of Christ brought his disciples to the very depths of despair: they were abandoned, mocked and disillusioned. And yet they possessed within their hearts the peace which passes all understanding: an assurance, a hope that their time of testing might pass and that the curse of death might be conquered.
They did not know; they believed.
And the message they believed has been central to the Christian faith for almost 2000 years. ‘It is one that has continually to be reinforced at times of stress, despair and danger, the moments when faith is tested and the will to overcome is undermined. This is why Good Friday is so central in its symbolism: the descent of darkness, the portents of destruction, the expiry of vision and hope. It is the Good Friday that comes to every person at different times, when failure robs life of all meaning, joy and love. It is the collapse of enterprise, confidence, relationships and dignity. It is the descent into Hell.’
Christians endure what Josephus referred to as ‘that most wretched of deaths’ on Good Friday because of the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection: it sustains them through the despair. But this life does not promise the joy and ecstasy of Easter: that is for another place. All that we can expect on earth is to be persecuted for the sake of righteousness: the world will hate us, but it hated Him first.
Today is a time for reflection: politics is ephemeral, but hope is eternal.
When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of Glory died;
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ, my God;
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.
See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.