Rome (AsiaNews) – The God of the Christians “has a heart,” actually He “has heart of flesh” and became man to give it to us, above all to teach us to love, as he did, those who suffer. Benedict XVI referred to the “heart of God” that Jesus’ sacrifice evokes tonight at the end of the Via Crucis, which as usual took place at the Coliseum amidst lighted candles, prayers, chants and a cross of lights.
In its slow progression from the ancient amphitheatre to the Arch of Titus tonight as in the past the Cross was carried by the Pope, in the first and last stations, as well as others, including a young Korean woman from Incheon dressed in a traditional blue and red outfit, a Chinese woman wearing black and red, a young woman from the Congo, another from Angola, a young Chilean man, a family from Rome, two Franciscan friars from the Custody of the Holy Land as well as Mgr Camillo Ruini, Cardinal Vicar of Rome.
“In following Jesus on the way of His Passion we see all those who suffer in the world,” Benedict XVI said off-the-cuff. Such indeed is the profound inner meaning of the Via Crucis, which is to teach us to open our hearts.” In mentioning that for the Fathers of the Church Jesus helps us to see with our hearts, he noted that “converting to Christ, becoming Christian meant having a heart receptive to the passion and suffering of others.” As the Bible says, “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.”
“Our God,” the Pontiff said, “is not an untouchable and distant God. He has heart, actually a heart of flesh” and became man to give us a heart of flesh and reawaken in us the love for those who suffer.
In concluding, the Holy Father said: “Let us pray the Lord; may He make us messengers of His love, not in words alone but throughout our life.”
If Benedict XVI offered a timeless vision of the Via Crucis, Mgr Gianfranco Ravasi, prefect of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana and one of Italy’s most prominent theologians, gave one in the Meditations written for the Via Crucis that was inspired by situations that exist today characterised by the suffering Christ had to endure in order bear the burden of everyone’s sins
Hence in his reflections he said that in the Garden of Gethsemane, “we see ourselves as we experience nights of awful pain, loneliness and friendlessness, God’s silence.” Ravasi goes further. “Even at times like this one in which we are together or in any other moment of the day,” we see “the bitter experience of so many who,” like in Judas’s betrayal, “find themselves alone in a room, staring at naked walls, waiting beside a silent phone, forgotten by all because they are old, sick, foreigners or strangers.” Yet “night shall be followed by dawn, darkness by light, treachery by repentance, even for Judas.” And in the words that Jesus used in addressing the Sanhedrin that was sitting in judgment of Him, he “sees the duty to bear witness to the truth. A witness that resonates even when the temptation to hide, give up, and follow the dominant opinion is strong.”
Pilate’s judgment “embodies an attitude that seems to prevail in this day and age, one of indifference, disinterest, personal convenience. [However,] indifference shall lead to humanity’s slow death.” Likewise, for Ravasi “God lies in ambush on the paths of our daily existence” as he was for Simon of Cyrene, who was compelled to bear the Cross when Jesus no longer could. “And, sometimes He can knock on our doors.”
“Even an unforeseen event like the one that occurred to Simon can turn into the gift of conversion. His act, which was forced upon him, eventually became the ideal symbol for all the acts of solidarity towards those who suffer, or are oppressed or tired.” He “stands for that huge crowd that includes those who are generous, the missionaries, the Samaritans who do not just ‘walk by’.” And in the meeting Jesus had with the women who came to surround Him “we see all the women who have been humiliated and violated, marginalised and subjected to shameful tribal practices; those in crisis, alone with their maternity, the Jewish and Palestinian mothers, and all those in war-torn lands, the widows and the older women forgotten by their children.”
Finally, standing beneath the crucified Jesus “a crowd has assembled ‘to see’ the gruesome show of His dying body. It is an image of shallowness and trite curiosity, a quest for cheap thrills—it shows a society similar to ours, one that chooses provocation and excess as if they were some kind of drug that excites the numbed soul, the unfeeling heart and the clouded mind.” (FP)