Pause for Thought
Good Friday 2018
One of my favourite memories is, as an 18 year old, spending time on a camping holiday in southern France. I remember visiting the beautiful medieval citadel at the heart of the city of Carcassone. Ancient walls wrap around the citadel on top of a hill, and in between the walls are tiny streets full of stall holders and shops, selling crafts and fabulous French food to tourists who flock to the city in their thousands.
Carcassone has been in the news over the last week because of the heroic actions of one of its citizens, Lt Col Arnaud Beltrame, the gendarme who willingly took the place of a hostage in a dangerous siege in Trèbes. The gunman had already killed three people before setting up with hostages in a supermarket. Lt Col Beltrame, walked unarmed into the situation. Most of us can hardly imagine the courage it must have taken to do such a thing and we wonder what would motivate someone to lay down their life for another person. Things ended tragically for Arnaud Beltrame and the people of France have rightly been paying tribute to his heroism in the last few days.
Good Friday is the day when Christians mark the death of Jesus Christ and we remember his self-giving act of love, that ended in his crucifixion. I believe he was killed because he spoke up for those who were downtrodden, for poor and sick people, children and women. Those in power did not like such courageous honesty; they enjoyed their privilege and Jesus was a threat to their comfort and to the status quo.
As with the French Gendarme, we wonder what would lead someone to be so brave – the only answer I can find is love. There is no greater love than to give one’s life for a friend – the love which motivated Jesus to be willing to die did not end when Jesus was laid in the tomb. I believe that beyond the resurrection, beyond the story that is now 2,000 years old, the same love continues. That love is in every act of kindness, every act of self-giving care and every time someone speaks uncomfortable truth to those in power. Surely it was love that was at the heart of Arnaud Beltrame’s actions – and it is love that makes it possible to keep going even in the face of great loss. The Christian festival of Easter celebrates that love defeats hate and, in the end, is more powerful than death.