The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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April 13, 2001 Issue

What Jesus did

By acting in the way Jesus did we too can overcome troubles and experience new life

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

This week we commemorate on Good Friday the power of hate, fear and love.

That hate - which grew from the fear of change, of uncertainty, of loss of power, of the loss of personal and even national life - led to the crucifixion of Jesus.

It can be easy - sadly, it's a tragic legacy of much of Christian history - to blame Jesus' death on the Jews. But, as the church teaches us, the responsibility for Jesus' death rests collectively on all of sinful humanity, from the first humans forever on into the future. For if Jesus' death were only the responsibility of those who cried "Crucify him, crucify him," the redemptive effects of his death would apply only to them. But just as we believe that Jesus died for and saved us all, we all are responsible for his death.

The actions leading to the death of Jesus vividly illustrate the power of a few to orchestrate the actions of many. Those cries of "Crucify him, crucify him" were the response of a crowd stirred to action much as a stadium crowd will join in the wave or scream at the urging of a defensive lineman in hopes of befuddling the opposing team's offense. It's the way some celebrate the winning of a sports championship - or mourn its loss - by turning over cars and setting fires. It's the way a nation eagerly goes to war against another nation in response to the manipulation of its leaders. These responses are not the result of reasonable thought and discourse, but unthinking reactions that reason would often judge as unthinkable.

Beyond the factors that led - and still lead - to the death of Jesus, we come back to the truth that Jesus died willingly for our sins because he loves us. Simply and almost incomprehensibly put: The unsinning Jesus died for us sinners because he loves us.

In so doing, Jesus showed us how we each are called to go beyond our own narrow self-interest and act unselfishly for others.

But Jesus' death isn't the whole story. Indeed, had he just died we probably never would have heard of him. Instead, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, just as we will someday. Until then, we are called to die and rise numerous times throughout our lives. Jesus gave us the key to dying and rising as he hung dying on that cross when he forgave those who were killing him. We, too, must forgive, die to that wrong and begin life anew. As we are mired in life's personal injustices, we are called to embrace the mysterious reality of new life brought by forgiveness.

Happy Easter.

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