Calvary

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By Arnold Van Vugt

The Living Spirit

Monday, April 7, 2014


DURING this Lenten season Christians are advised to reflect on the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through the Stations of the Cross we can follow the different stages of his suffering starting from the physical torture and the crown of thorns on orders of Pontius Pilate to the agony of a Roman crucifixion at Calvary.

Imagine the humiliation He has gone through being crucified together with two murderers and the mockery and jeers from those who urged him to prove himself by coming down from the cross and, above all, the unspeakable mental torture of watching his Mother and the disciple John whom he loved so dearly, who in their turn were watching him and grieving for him, while he knew all the time that they could not understand him.

It is worth pausing at this point to reflect on the agony of Calvary and especially on what is often all but overlooked: “that of knowing you are letting down those you love, that you could do otherwise but that duty demands you choose instead to see the disappointment and bewilderment in their eyes”. This is a quote from a book of Ann Widdecombe Sackcloth and Ashes (Bloombury, 2013).

Can we, as Christians go against the common perception of people that says that we should be afraid of other people – because other people are only after what we have got – and that we should focus on looking after ourselves before anyone else? Because this is what Jesus asks of us, that we go beyond what is expected and what is easy, and challenge ourselves to serve humanity and love our neighbors – however far away they are from us and however different they may be.

While I was writing this column I got a text from a good friend of mine who told me that her husband, a Dutchman, had passed away at midnight in a hospital here in the city. I am in shock.

I remember, last month I went together with my wife to his birthday on March 8. The birthday celebration was anticipated because his real birthday is on March 12. That Dutch friend of mine was actually divorced from his wife in Holland and he had married a Filipina whom he had met as a pen pal. They lived in Holland for some time and then he came back here to retire.

He is a Catholic and he has unfortunate memories because of the way he was treated by the church in Holland. Pope Francis today would have looked at him with more consideration, I am sure. On that birthday celebration I had a short discussion with him whether he was still going to church and prayed. He told me that he never went to church anymore because of those experiences but I think he still believed in God and he did pray. I was planning to go and visit him again on his birthday on March 12 and talk to him more about his problem with the church. But, unfortunately, I was not able to go there because of other important occupations. Now I regret that I didn’t go there because that would have been much more important. I could have talked to him about those memories and probably could have given him some peace of mind on that issue.

I pray for his repose but moreover, I pray for his wife who had lost a loving husband. His wife is very religious and I pray that God will give her the strength to accept his will and bear this pain with faith in God’s love and wisdom. I experienced again that there are no such things as coincidences. Everything is under God’s control and He acts in mysterious ways.

[Email: nolvanvugt@gmail.com]

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 07, 2014.

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