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Saturday, April 26, 2014

THE silences woven into the stories after Easter Sunday persist until today.

In the week after the Resurrection, Scripture tell of appearances to women outside the tomb to a skeptical Tomas asked to place his fingers on the crucifixion wounds.

But what about Pontius Pilate? When did the Roman procurator know of the empty tomb? And did he tell his wife about the set aside burial shrouds?


Earlier, she sent a note to Pilate, then sitting on the judgement seat: "Don't have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today
in a dream because of him." Or did she learn of Easter from others?

The last mention, in scriptures, about Joseph of Arimathea was when he and Nicomedus, who’d furtively visited Christ at night, rolled the stone to seal the grave that he donated to accomodate the crushed body of Christ.

Did they see the stone rolled away and the discarded burial shrouds? The gospels are silent. The Filipino phrase for Simon of Cyrene is chamba.

By chance, he was passing by when the Man carrying a cross crashed before him. Was Simon at the wrong place at the wrong time? He was conscripted to carry the cross to Golgotha.

Others speculate to fill the gaps. In the Mel Gibson movie on the Passion, the arms of Jesus and Simon link as they bear the cross together.

As Jesus falters, Simon takes on increasingly a greater weight. “We’re almost there,” he says repeatedly to urge him over the last agonizing steps. At the place of execution, he who was forced to help the condemned criminal stands by him almost as a friend.

The gospels give sparse details about this istambay conscript. Only that his two sons, named Alexander and Rufus, were disciples. Simon never appears again in scriptures.

A Roman centurion is mentioned in three of the four crucifixion accounts. A centurion commanded a detachment of what were most probably Syrian born soldiers. And Jesus was only another in a long line of people he was commanded to execute.

Good Friday proved different. Jesus cried out, “It is finished” and, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” At that moment, a violent earthquake rocked the land with such ferocity that rocks were split.

Luke writes: “When the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, ‘Certainly this was a righteous Man!’ Thus, the executioner became the first person to become a believer.”

Then silence blankets him. And what about Judas? “When Judas, his betrayer, saw that he was condemned, he repented and brought back the 30
pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned
in betraying innocent blood.’”

The scriptures recount: “They said, ‘What is that to us? See to it
yourself.’ And throwing down the pieces of silver, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.”

Jesus never abandoned Judas, notes Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household. “Friend” was the last word that Jesus addressed to him in the Garden of Olives after the cold kiss of betrayal.

“Who can say what transpired in Judas’s soul during those final moments?” Christ said of his betrayer: “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

True. Yet, when Jesus prays from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” he certainly does not exclude Judas from those he prays for.

“Horrible was the nature of my sins,” says the ex-communicated king of Sicily Manfred on his death bed, “but boundless mercy stretches out its arms to any man who comes in search of it.”

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 27, 2014.


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