While this story is unconfirmed, would it really be a surprise? One of the great problems with Christianity in the west is that we have forgotten that there are still those who in picking up their cross and following, end up nailed to it. Why it is so shocking and surprising that a priest may be crucified on Friday is beyond me since our Great High Priest already suffered that fate. With the rise of ISIS in the world, we have witnessed, via the ever present 24 hour news cycle, the martyrdom of thousands of Christians and it has not moved us. Don’t misunderstand please, I am certain that we are all repulsed and distraught at the death toll not only of Christians, but also of the numerous Muslims and others killed by ISIS. The horror of bombings will remain etched in our minds for a time to come without doubt, but we have not been moved. We mourn the death of the martyrs, but fail to rejoice in their blood. The blood of the martyrs should strengthen us, and all it seems to do is bring us sorrow. If we do not take strength and an increased urgency to spread the message of the gospel from their blood, then we have cheapened their sacrifice…not just theirs but the sacrifice of Christ Himself.
When we hear the stories of their deaths, and on Friday the death of Christ, we should be moved to tears, but also moved to action. Those tears should contain the sorrow that it has come to this, the pain and recognition of death, but also of the joy of the promise of resurrection. Our actions should reflect that promise of the kingdom to come, but also of the kingdom that is here. That is the way of the kingdom of God after all, it has come, it is here, and it will come again in its completeness. We, however, seem unmoved as we will do the same things on Monday without change.
Friday is coming, but first there is today. Holy Thursday is a time when we will hear the story of a Savior who is a servant washing even the feet of those who He loves. We will hear and share the supper with Christ. We will hear about His body and blood and have His real presence in the Eucharist. We will hear of the betrayal of Christ and be reminded of the betrayals we have experienced as well. We’ll remember that even when betrayed, we are called to forgive and love. There will be an arrest, some blood and a healing. There will be prayer and agony. There will be acceptance of the will of God. There will be faith, even unto death. There will be blood, as an ear is cut off. That is really a constant in this story after all…blood. If the story above is accurate, the priest in question is being beaten and tortured today. There will be blood. Our great High Priest was beaten and tortured as well. There was blood. There will be more.
Friday is coming. Christ will carry His cross…our cross…to the hill. He will be hung there to die. He will be mocked, he will be scorned and He will be abandoned. He will suffer, but even in that suffering offer redemption to one who asks it of Him. Christ will be offered gall to numb the pain,. but will refuse. He will say the three most precious words…it is finished. Eventually He will die. If the above story is true, a priest will suffer a fate similar to our High Priest. We will be repulsed and agonize. We will be angry at the injustice. If we pay attention, we will be moved, not only to tears, but to action. I hope we will be, but fear we will not.
We know the rest of the story. Sunday is coming, Christ will rise, and the joy of Easter will fill and renew the church once more. We will be reminded, at least for a brief time, that we are Easter people. We will forget about the pain, the death, the blood. We can never forget that while we are indeed Easter people, we are also a people born again in blood. The blood of the martyrs is a reminder of that, but how we have forgotten. We have gone from the example of Peter who wished to be crucified upside down as he was not worthy to be killed in the same manner of Christ, to people who do everything we can to avoid talk of death and blood at all. While I would not advocate a rush to go and be martyred, I would hope that we are not fearful of it. When we become indifferent to the blood of Christ and the martyrs, when we avoid and discount it, we have taken the gall..maybe worse as we have taken the blood shed and turned it into the gall that numbs us. Not only have we not followed the example of Christ by not allowing the numbness to overcome us, we have cheapened the most precious blood ever shed. We have cheapened Christ and those who have died for His name. We have turned it is finished from a statement into a question. The blood of Christ and His martyrs reminds of the great mystery of faith; Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. The blood of Christ and the martyrs reminds us that the promise of resurrection carries with it the guarantee of death. More than any other time of the year, thank God Friday is close. Without it, there is no life everlasting.