Friends, I don’t know if you noticed, but we all walked into a bare Church. Silence greeted us. The altar is stripped of all its decorations. It is a skeletal altar that confronts us with the reality of death. God is dead, the altar announces, and we killed him. Nietzsche wasn’t wrong for accusing us of killing God. John’s Passion Narrative reiterates this fact. We not only bring false charges against God in those we accuse wrongly, and unjustly condemn, but we also forget God and as such we forget who we truly are. Thus, we kill God in us. We become self-absorbed and start acting beastly. We suddenly stop seeing the other as a brother, a sister, to be loved, but as a competitor — an adversary to be eliminated. No wonder we killed God because we have forgotten who he is in Christ Jesus — Our Brother, Our Saviour, and Our Healer. Even the sick who need healing end up killing their healer because they have forgotten him. They no longer know him as their healer and redeemer. Are we not in the same boat, “seasick,” as G. K. Chesterton opined? All we tend to see is another competitor, trying to grasp what we desperately want.

God is dead. The empty Tabernacle demonstrates the consequences of God’s death. We killed him. So we have to live with the consequences. He is dead. Everything from now on loses its meaning. Remember, it is in God we live, move, and have our being (Acts 17:28). Without him, we can’t live. We can’t move. We can’t have our being, purpose, meaning, and self-actualization. Without God, life is empty. This is the truth that confronts us as we gather in silence, gazing at the skeletal altar, and empty Tabernacle and sitting with a Church that is mourning. Her groom is dead. Surprisingly, it is we, his bride, who has been killed. What have we gained from his death? Are we any freer? Are we happier? Do we have a better society? Have we done away with evil? As Rupert Shortt argues, the death of God doesn’t take away humanity’s problems, it only takes away hope. It puts out the light of God’s presence and lets the darkness outside dominate us. Can we understand why there is so much fear, and how out of fear we perpetuate the killing of each other? “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do it to me” — Jesus.

God is dead. We killed him on the cross. By dying on the cross, Christ reinterpreted the symbol of punishment, scapegoating, and shame to mean the good, and suffering is what he experienced as he went about doing good, carrying his cross. The two bars of the cross — horizontal and vertical — demonstrate this meaning. The vertical bar link humanity with God, restoring the Original Good, our friendship with God. He died befriending us. The horizontal bar stretches from East to West, from the rising sun to its setting, embracing all of humanity, time, and seasons. He died gathering us in, bringing us to the Father, as the First-Born Son, redeeming us, his lost siblings. So, as we venerate the Cross, let us commit to dying with Christ on the cross so that God will come alive again in us. Let’s pick up our crosses too, that is, go about doing good and being good even when we must suffer because of the good we do. By so doing, we will join Christ in destroying the hostility of sin and death, and we change, and the God we have killed comes alive in us, bringing about a civilization of hope, forgiveness, and love.

Image: By Michelangelo – The Pietà by Michelangelo, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82525062

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Fr. Francis Afu is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Armidale, Australia. He is currently undertaking a PhD Research Fellowship in the United States.

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