Unprecedented media attention has been focused in recent weeks on the central symbol of Christianity - the cross - even if much of the coverage has been uncomprehending.
Whatever the merits of the Mel Gibson-directed movie, The Passion of the Christ (see review on pages 8-9), it has been a timely corrective to the watered-down interpretation of Christ's life and teachings presented in many post-1960s homilies and catechetical materials.
The hard reality of being a follower of Christ is the obligation to take up one's own cross: offering up frustrations, disappointments, pains, losses and tragedies in union with Christ's ultimate sacrifice on the cross. It is this which gives meaning to what can otherwise seem pointless.
The Gospel accounts of Our Lord's passion and death are under-stated, but there is no doubt what was specifically entailed in being scourged, crowned with thorns and crucified. The Mel Gibson film simply presents these in all their excruciating detail. Here indeed is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world; the bloody sacrifice of God's own Son which is at the heart of the Mass.
These are fundamental Christian truths that have been obscured in recent years, leading many younger Catholics to find their religion "boring" or "irrelevant".
But, for the Christian, there are two sides to the coin. While the sacrifice of God's only-begotten Son may provide meaning and consolation in the midst of our own sufferings, ultimately, it is Easter Sunday that rounds off the Christian story as a beacon of hope. For beyond the inevitable pain in this life there lies the promise of the Resurrection.
As the two angels told the women at Christ's empty tomb in Luke's account: "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen."
- Michael Gilchrist, Editor (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.ad2000.com.au)