11AM, 9TH APRIL 2004, GOOD FRIDAY. Third sis phoned. Her son, E., has to each write a few paragraphs about Good Friday in Mandarin for his teacher, she said. As a Christian, can i help? Before passing the phone to E., she popped a question with some amusement in her voice, "Why is Good Friday good?"
Why indeed? By now, just about everyone have heard about Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ movie, including non-believers like my second and third sisters. Almost everyone knows that Jesus has died a bloody, excruciating death on the cross on Good Friday. So much gore, so much pain. Why is something so horrid called good?
From a Buddhist point of view, it's even more incomprehensible. Buddhists believe that whoever does good would reap good fruits. So, the person who died a happy peaceful death must have done lots of good. The converse is also perceived to be true: whoever does bad would reap bad fruits. So, the person who died a horrible death must have...!!!
FOR A FEW AWKWARD MOMENTS, something which i've accepted almost implicitly for such a long time (13 years!) became something that was truly difficult to explain, especially to a ten-year-old child brought up in a Buddhist family. This was almost like a sudden 'table topic' (a.k.a. toastmasters) out of nowhere for a believer who seldom evangelises to non-believers. The Lord sure has quite a sense of humour.
After some hemming, tried explaining what i understood about The Original Sin (how pride, and not apples or mere disobedience, got in the way), how mankind began to commit more serious sins and got separated from God, who Jesus is, why He had to suffer so much and die a horrible death -- to redeem sinners so that they can be re-united with God, and so on. Then did a Google search through the Internet. Nope, nothing satisfactory and clear enough for a child. Eventually, decided to piece a few facts together and wrote a few paras for E.:
"In 33 A.D., on a day before the Sabbath (a Jewish holy day, now commonly understood to be on Saturdays), a man called Jesus was crucified to death by Roman soldiers in Golgotha (which means "the place of the skull" in Hebrew) near Jerusalem, Israel. Since then, Jesus' followers (now known as Christians) have commemorated this event every Friday. The Friday which marks the anniversary of Jesus' death thus came to be called the Holy or the Good Friday.
"This sad event where Jesus suffered a very bloody and painful death is considered holy and even good because Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He rose to life again three days after His death. Long before Jesus was born, as recorded in the bible, many Jewish prophets had predicted His birth by a virgin, death on the cross and resurrection on the third day. Jesus himself had also predicted these. After his death, Jesus was seen by Peter, then by the twelve apostles, then by over five hundred brethren at once, then by James, by all the apostles again and finally by Paul around the time of his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).
"Basically, Jesus had been sent by God the Father to suffer and die on behalf of all human beings so that through His resurrection, He can save everyone from the mortal consequences of their sins (wrong-doings). By believing in Him, we can all go to Heaven and be united with God when we die."
Now, is this enough? Is it time perhaps to start attending catechism classes again? :-p OR perhaps time to just trust in God that in His time, all things shall work for good for those who love Him?
(See also Why Is Good Friday 'Good'... II.)
Revised the last para for my nephew E.:
"To cut a long story short, Jesus had been sent by God the Father to testify to the truth - to tell everyone that He is the Son of God, and that they must repent, stop sinning and return to God. He suffered and died on behalf of all human beings so that through His resurrection, He can save all from the mortal consequences of their wrong-doings. By believing in Him and by following His teachings faithfully, we can all go to Heaven and be re-united with God when we die."
O Happy Easter that brought so much hope to so many! (Read a beautiful Easter message from the Jesuits.)
Watched The Passion of The Christ yesterday afternoon. Thanks to Fr J.'s sermon, i could appreciate the movie much more in terms of Jesus' testimony to the truth -- God's truth and not politically expedient truth such as Pilate's in the movie. Also re-learnt that i have no excuse whatsoever not to forgive anyone. (More below.)
Shortly after, attended the 9pm Easter vigil mass at St Mary's with a colleague L. and her daughter S. Fr M.'s sermon about Renoir's persistence despite severe arthritis was a timely reminder. Yes, "the pain passes, the beauty and love remain." The story of Jesus' passion!
Upon re-reading this log, i felt compelled to make yet another change. (Going further and further beyond a few paragraphs of text. To email or not to email this to E.?)
"To cut a long story short, Jesus had been sent by God the Father to testify to everyone the truth -- that He is the Son of God, and that we must repent, stop sinning and start testifying to God's truth too, even to the point of 'taking up crosses' (suffering terribly).
"The intense emotional and physical pains that Jesus bore -- betrayal, persecution, scourging and finally crucifixion -- are the kinds that no human being before Him could ever bear without negative emotions such as resentment, hatred, vengeance or despair. Yet Jesus bore it all with amazing spiritual grace. In the midst of prolonged excruciating pain, He actually asked God to forgive his torturers, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
"But this is not the end of the story. Three days after His death, Jesus rose to life again, thereby proving that He is the Son of God and that life after death is possible. Jesus has taken on the sins of mankind, set a living example for all to follow and assured us of eternal salvation. If we truly believe in Him, we will do our best to follow His teachings and example faithfully. And we will all go to Heaven and be re-united with God when we die."
By the way, was also quite impressed by the level and quality of detail in the movie, in particular, by the parts that support Jesus' claim that "For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth" and that "Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice" (John 18:37)
For example, how Pilate told his wife, "This is my truth..." after asking Jesus, "What is truth?" Another example, how Jesus hesitated when asked whether He's the Messiah, affirmed who His is, and then wept when the high (or chief) priest spat on him. i think He wept not because of the contempt shown, but rather because of all people, the high (or chief) priest should be able to recognize and worship God. Yet, what he's saying and doing? It's enough to make God weep.