Friday, 20 March 2009

4th Sunday of Lent - Year B

2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21

In the movie Gandhi the Mahatma is speaking to a reporter and says: What you cannot do is accept injustice ... You must make the injustice visible and be prepared to die like a soldier to do so. This statement, of course, would prophetically come to sum up his own life; through his non-violent opposition to British injustice he made the injustice visible and he died doing it.

Towards the end of the movie we have the extraordinary scene in which the Indians try to gain access to the salt mine at Dharasana. There is a Royal Monopoly on the manufacture of salt and it's illegal to make it or sell it without a Government license. The British knew that their absolute control of the salt was a control on the very pulse of India.

A huge crowd of Indians approaches the gates and asks for permission to enter. The atmosphere is electric. Permission is denied. So now they begin to move gently forward to take what is theirs by right. Let me quote from the transcript of the film:
And with the volunteers a foot from them, the police strike with their lathis (batons). A groan of empathic anguish from the waiting volunteers, but then ... the next row moves forward and the horror of the one-sided mayhem proceeds - heads are cracked, faces split, ribs smashed, and yet one row of volunteers follows another, and another into the unrelenting police, who knock bleeding bodies out of the way, down into the dip, swing till sweat pours from their faces and bodies.
And through it ... the Indian women rescuing the wounded, carrying them on stretchers to be bandaged ... And always the volunteers coming, never stopping, never offering resistance.
At first the reporter looks away in horror but suddenly the truth of what is really happening becomes clear to him. He rushes to the telephone to make his report and declares to his editor: India is free!

I remember being quite stunned by this statement the first time I saw the movie. How could it be? In the midst of this terrible carnage how could this reporter suddenly declare that India is free?

Within the structures by which the English monopolised salt in India lay a deep injustice - a violation of the fundamental rights of the people to the salt in the waters of their own seas. This injustice lay hidden in the routine processes of governing the country, and protecting the injustice was a savage violence. This is why everything appeared peaceful and orderly.

The Indians called out the violence, drew it out of hiding, and so made the injustice visible - in their own blood.

When you make evil visible it loses its ambiguity and it is defeated because very few of us willingly support evil. And so the task of the good man is to make evil visible and to be prepared to die like a soldier to do so.

Which brings us to the Cross. Jesus said: The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.

We lift things up when we have something to show; something to let people look at.

Jesus 'lifted up' makes visible, something that is usually invisible, something that is intimately mine and yours. Can you guess what it is? And in showing this to us in the only light in which we could bear to look at it, the light of his mercy, he defeats it by taking the burden of it upon himself and suffering its consequences in his own blood.

Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.

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