Good Friday

In the early hours of last Monday, a dozen soldiers dressed in the uniform of the Congolese army burst into a room in North Kivu and shot dead Fr Vincent Machozi, an Augustinian friar. His crime? Speaking out about the atrocities committed against his people, the Yira, by powerful interests intent on syphoning off the wealth of the region, particularly coltan, a metallic ore used in our cell phones and laptops.

open_bibleThe progress of our planet, the coming together of people, the ease of communication – come at a price. My first reaction on reading about Fr Vincent was from the gut. He knew it was dangerous. He had already survived seven previous attacks since 2012. Surely prudence called for him to get out. The fact that he didn’t, the fact that he stayed knowing full well he was walking a knife edge, forced me to get out of the gut into the head and heart. He had even said, “I will be murdered. I feel it.” Yet, he stayed on.

Good Friday is not a distant event of centuries ago, a memory we keep as the climax of our story. Good Friday is here and now. There are many people dying today because their faith puts them in the line of fire. This is particularly true of Syria and Iraq but it is happening in Africa too and in Asia. To witness to the truth as Jesus did – and as Vincent Machozi did – brings us up against the hard wall of evil. Machozi could have got out, but in his heart he “set his face towards Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51) knowing full well what this meant.

“The crowds were appalled on seeing him … astonished … speechless before him” (Is 52:14). They think Machozi’s crazy. They are confused, “without a shepherd.” They “stay there watching” (Luke 23:35),  not knowing how their cell phones are made and not caring, not knowing what IS is and not bothering to find out – unless they strike near home.

Then there are those intent on evil, on murder, be they Roman or Congolese soldiers.

And there is us! We like to think we are people who understand, people who accompany Jesus and share his sorrows and his joys. We are like the little people who stood near the cross, or at least “at a distance” (Luke 23:49). We don’t want to get too close. That might be dangerous and lead us to Machozi’s fate. We ponder Good Friday and we ponder this Friday  when we are alive and able to make choices, choices that bring us closer to the cross – or keep us at a distance.

The cross of Jesus is the fixed point around which all creation circles. We can say wise things about it and yet keep it at a distance. But we know we are called to go beyond words and thoughts and let the reality of its saving energy enter our hearts. Then, perhaps, we too can make “unwise” decisions, as Vincent Machozi did.

25 March 2016                                    Good Friday

Isaiah 52:13-53:12                              Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9                      John 18:1-19:42


For a picture of Fr Vincent see

Post published in: Faith

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