Lenten Prayer with St Cuthbert – Day 43

A sorry tale of politics, power, and crowd rule, or is that otherwise known as democracy, with ‘social influencers’ doing their piece? Three times Pilate says he will release Jesus, three times he is beaten back by the increasing vehemence of the crowds. Of course, he could have called in the army to crush the rising riot, but it would not have helped his thankless task of trying to govern this brittle people. Capitulation. We may speak of miscarriages of justice, but the deep irony of it is, as Jesus already knew, our redemption could not have happened any other way. How could the Creator heal his own lover, other than by absorbing into himself the bitterness, violence, anger, insecurity, pride, arrogance, greed, and every other human darkness, all of which can ultimately be traced back to the terror of facing death and annihilation. Jesus’ passion and death is the ultimate Passover.

Cuthbert is barely mentioned in today’s short reading. Instead, we hear of Eadberht, bishop of Lindisfarne, who sang his paean of Cuthbert in yesterday’s chapter, becoming progressively more ill and dying. The Anglo-Saxon saints, along with the rest of the early Church, had a completely different view of Christian suffering to us. For them, pain and illness, although not to be sought, was participation in the suffering of Christ on the Cross, carrying their cross as Jesus commanded, in order to bring healing back into the world. A quick or sudden death, therefore, cheated them out of this privilege, meaning that they were somehow found to be unworthy of sharing in Christ’s work. The granting of Eadberht’s wish, to die through a ‘long and wearing illness’, gave him the right to be buried close to Cuthbert’s uncorrupted body, as he, too, had been found worthy of sharing in Christ’s redeeming work. Bede’s final comment says it all: ‘the very clothes worn by [Cuthbert], both in life and in death, have still the power to heal.’ Eadberht has found his healing.

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