Our reflection for Good Friday, 29 March 2013, is written by Michel Segatagara Kamanzi SJ.
“He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faceshe was despised, and we held him of no account.” Is 53:3
This passage, from the third song of the Servant of the Lord in the book of the Prophet Isaiah (Is 52,13 – 53,12), is applied in today’s liturgy to the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Like the Suffering Servant in Isaiah, our Lord was despised and rejected by many of his people as he underwent his Passion for our salvation. He had the experience of stigma, “as one from whom others hide their faces”.
However scripture and tradition tell us that, in his painful Way of the Cross, Jesus was not rejected by all. Turning to the traditional images of the Stations of the Cross, we see the fourth, fifth and sixth stations: Jesus meets his mother (IV), Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross (V), Veronica wipes the face of Jesus (VI). While “rejected by others”, Jesus is comforted by meeting his mother, herself in sorrow for the pain of her son. In the fifth station, we see a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who has come from the country and is compelled by the soldiers to carry the cross behind Jesus. It seems that even the soldiers who treated Jesus so harshly felt the need of help for one undergoing such a heavy trial. I like to remember Simon of Cyrene as an African and a father called to help Jesus on his Way of the Cross. It is interesting to note that in the previous station we were with the mother of Jesus, now we have a father helping him. In the sixth station of the Way of the Cross, we see Veronica wiping the face of the suffering Jesus. Unlike others who have hidden their faces behind their veils, she uses hers to wipe Jesus’ face. And tradition says that the image of the face of our Lord remained imprinted on the veil. Indeed, the Lord approves with a seal, an icon of his face, her gesture of compassion that broke the stigma imposed on him.
On Good Friday, meditating on the suffering of our Lord, the stigma he faced on his Way of the Cross comes to mind. This stigma is a common painful experience for people living with AIDS: many of our brothers and sisters have been “despised and rejected” although they are already “suffering and acquainted with infirmity”. Many have hidden their faces from them. This attitude has increased their pain and deepened their wound, and has prompted others to be afraid to discover their own HIV status, because they fear living in shame and confusion, and they fear rejection. Indeed, stigma contributes to the spread of the pandemic.
It is true that people can somehow seek to justify the stigma associated with AIDS by citing the fear of contamination. There are even those who will say these people should be put “in jail” since they represent a danger for others. And some will add: after all it is their fault if they are infected! They are sinners! Unfortunately, many of these prejudgments, signs of ignorance, add to stigma. To remain “immune”, should we protect ourselves by discriminating against others?
No. Today, there is no doubt that one of the best ways to protect ourselves and our communities from AIDS, is not to exclude but to include people living with AIDS. I believe we can learn from the attitude of Mary, Simon of Cyrene and Veronica in our fight against stigma in a time of AIDS. As many of us know from experience, accompanying those with AIDS, sharing their “grief and anguish”, but also their “joy and hope”, helps also to overcome our fear and ignorance, to break the vicious circle of stigma and discrimination, and to enter in a virtuous circle of compassion, hospitality and solidarity. And this is certainly in line with our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection; it is the perspective of the One who came so that we may have life and have it more abundantly (Jn 10:10).
To read this reflection in French, please go here.
To read the reflection of the fifth week of Lent, please go here.
To read the reflection of the fourth week of Lent, please go here.
To read the reflection of the third week of Lent, please go here.
To read the reflection of the second week of Lent, please go here.
To read the reflection of the first week of Lent, please go here.
To read the reflection of Ash Wednesday, please go here.