What does INRI mean?
Why do we call this Friday Good?
As a Church, we reflect on Jesus’ suffering and death with special significance once a year during Holy Week, culminating on Good Friday. Why?
Some experts suggest that the early Christian descriptions of the day as "God's Friday" or "Holy Friday" combined over time to now describe the day of the Crucifixion as "Good." It is indeed hard to imagine goodness when the terrible drama of the day reveals so much violence and loss associated with the common form of Roman execution at that time. Crucifixion was public. It was graphic. And it was brutal for a calculated purpose. In the case of Jesus, we see the purpose posted above his beaten head in the abbreviation "INRI." “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum” - Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews. This form of capital punishment was intended to be a deterrent to all those who might challenge the order that those in power had created. In hearts and minds of those associated with the victim, he or she was reduced to nothingness. Crucifixion was intended to inflict collective trauma. This was the calculated purpose. There could be no other story told. However, the crucifixion did not silence the "Jesus Movement," and what became Christianity.
This is the Why of the Season of Lent. The sacred season offers the opportunity to remember and learn who God is (and who we are) in and through the story of such a collective trauma that we believe is also the means of collective transformation. As we enter Holy Week, we enter the story of a God, our God, who became a victim so that we might see those around us every day who are reduced to nothing. To put it bluntly… we are invited to ask, "What kills God?" The story of Holy Week presents the answer: our capacity to reduce others to nothingness to defend systems that benefit us. What the Story of Holy Week changes is that those victims are no longer faceless. We know who they are. They are Christ. Their lives matter.
If the crucifixion happened in another time or place, the killing would have been done with one of the many other tools of violence that societies have constructed for the same purpose. This social sin and collective trauma is part of the human condition. However, the story offers hope and transformation.
Although crucifixion was intended to erase all memory of the innocent life being taken, the power of the person of Jesus and what he inspired in others offers us again and again the opportunity to stop and heal the social sin that creates victims and causes God to suffer. Why do we reserve a week each year to reflect on God’s suffering and death? Because we need a response.
The redemption of the world has already begun, but it is not complete yet. Learning and living what Holy Week teaches is an ongoing way of life.
MISSIO offers themed-quizzes in MissioBot to examine your religious knowledge - and this blog by James Nagle, PhD to reflect on questions of faith.