As a new Sri Lanka evolves with multi-party, multi-religious and multi-ethnic unity on an unprecedented scale it is significant that as Buddhists mark Bak Poya today, Christians commemorate Good Friday.
According to the Mahawansa, it was on such a Bak Poya day that the Buddha, in the fifth year of his Enlightenment, visited Nagadeepa to peacefully settle a dispute between two Naga kings mainly over a gem studded throne. The two warring parties listened to the Buddha’s doctrine which highlighted peace and harmony. We hope today’s North and East, rising from the devastating 30 year war, will receive the enlightenment and inspiration to move towards reconciliation, lasting peace and unity in diversity.
According to the Bible, the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ is best described in one of the most widely quoted verses in the Holy Scriptures. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).
South Africa’s much loved and widely respected Archbishop Desmond Tutu—who played a leading role in the legendary process of truth and reconciliation in that country—recently wrote a book with a startling title, “God is not a Christian”. Orthodox Christians might be initially shocked but in the preface he also quotes John 3:16 for “God so loved the world…” not just Christians.
While people are born to live, the amazing factor of Jesus Christ is that he was born to die. He was born in a stranger’s cattle shed and was buried in a stranger’s tomb. He lived with little or nothing, saying “foxes have holes and birds have nests but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head on.” Eventually He was stripped of even His clothes. Everything was given to others because all that is not given is lost.
The vision and mission of the life of Jesus Christ was His desire and willingness, from day-to-day or moment to moment, to seek and do the Father’s will. The victory at Calvary was really won the previous night in Gethsemane - when Jesus went through intense agony in His struggle to do God’s will. It was so agonising that he sweated drops of blood and told His apostles, “My soul is crushed by sorrow to the point of death.” Most psychiatrists today would identify these words with suicidal thoughts. Eventually Jesus overcame the struggle when He was strengthened by amazing grace to say, “Not my will Father but Thy will be done.”
Pope Francis whose three-day visit to Sri Lanka in January this year drew a crowd of about two million people, the biggest in our history, gave some inspiring Holy Week reflections on Wednesday. Focusing on the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, he urged the faithful to see the signs of the Risen Lord and open their hearts to a present that is full of the future. In his last encyclical, the “joy of the gospel” Pope Francis lamented that many Christians look like a people of Lent without Easter.
Stressing the need for selfless, sacrificial, sincere and feet-washing service to all, Pope Francis said the focus always should be on the love commandment—“love one another as I love you”.