Good Friday, when Christians across the world remember the death of Jesus two thousand years ago, draws attention to the continued human capacity to inflict suffering on others – and also to the resources of sacrificial love needed to transform the human condition, says the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Dr Rowan Williams was speaking on BBC Radio 4 this morning. “Good Friday brings us up sharp against the recognition that something is very wrong with the human heart”, he declared in his Thought for the Day.
In recent weeks the Archbishop has highlighted violence, poverty, racism, slavery and prejudice as examples of issues which challenge an easy confidence about innate human goodness, and which suggest that both individuals and society need a major change of direction.
He has acknowledged that this change also needs to reach deep into his own church, which has been accused of homophobia and intolerance in its bitter internal wrangles.
The Archbishop, who is spiritual head of the world’s 78 million Anglicans, continued: “The cross on which Jesus dies reminds us of the countless places where human beings make other human beings suffer unspeakably – and of the fact that most of us most of the time don’t notice, and, even when we do, can’t do anything to stop it or make things safe.”
Declared Dr Williams: “Healing doesn’t come by any kind of [hu]man-made contrivance – by success in technology or politics or business. It only comes if we let some buried and forgotten bits of our humanity come to the surface. And what the whole of Jesus’ life is meant to say to us is that those bits of our human nature we often don’t value or notice, the bits that our society doesn’t pay much attention to, are the ones most in tune with God and so the ones that God can use to rebuild us.”
These features of the human constitution are “[o]ur capacity for trust; our capacity for compassion; our honesty about our weaknesses”, he suggested. “[T]here’s where God can really take hold of us. There’s the tissue out of which new hearts can be constructed.”