The cross and natural calamities
The young carpenter from Nazareth just happened to be born at the wrong time and in the wrong place. If Pilate hadn’t been in a jam...if Judas hadn’t...if Palestine had been independent and self-ruling...if a corrupt priesthood hadn’t been...if...if...if. But as it was, a countless host of contingent facts just came together and we had this fine young man hung on a public gallows. That’s what history and life are made up of—a long chain of related economic, political, social, psychological, religious and other realities that could have been other than they turned out to be.
His death at the hands of his own leaders is no strange thing really—this has happened countless times. Open historical literature anywhere and two hundred illustrations will fall out of that page and glance at the newspaper and you’ll get your fill of such stories.
The libraries are filled with millions of books that explain the whys and wherefores of life down the centuries and, certainly, while every little detail can’t be spelled out, the movements of history are clear. And this is clear—the historical movements and moods didn’t have to be that way. The actors on the stage of life were not mindless chess pieces with some force or deity moving all the pieces. There was free will (limited but real) everywhere around, operating within political, economic and other social realities. What happened at Golgotha truly was the result of free human choices made out of characters that did not have to be as they were. The cross of Christ was an event that didn't have to happen.
If we didn’t know better we’d stop right there and that’d be the end of it!
But that isn’t the end of it for we have heard A GOSPEL. In our very act of murdering the Holy Father was sacrificing. In our very act of stealing God was giving! In our very act of expressing hatred and fragmentation God in holy love was reconciling. In our very act of bringing suffering and death God was laying the foundation for eternal life and joy!
You think it makes less of the death of Christ to say God was in it up to his neck? You think it trivialises the horror of the young man hanging on the scaffold if we say God was bringing it about?
I say we don’t begin to see it in its inexpressible glory and its speech-impoverishing horror until we see that God was bringing it about!
You think to say that God was bringing it about proves he doesn’t care about the young man on the cross?
I say we don’t have the foggiest notion what love is until we see the young man on the cross and see him as sent there by his Holy Father! 1 John 3:16, 4:14-16.
On that day the eternal and unfathomable holy love of God for the whole human race was being broadcast to the entire cosmos!
And do you think that Katrina is fully explained by random mindless forces? You think that calling it "just one of those things" is taking it in all its profound seriousness? You think that calling it "bad luck" gets to the bottom of it? You think that saying "we can learn from suffering" is the full measure of it? You think natural calamities like hurricane Katrina confirms our religious smugness—God was judging the outrageously sinful? It’s at a time like this that Christ would look directly at us and repeat Luke 13:1-5. "Do you think the sinners that died in Katrina (along with the innocent)were greater sinners than you? No, I’m telling you if you don’t repent you’ll die as well."
People who suffer as the real sufferers of this world suffer have earned the right not to be toyed with. The suffering brought in natural calamities like Katrina or the Asian tsunami is profoundly more serious and more assuring (yes!) than all this babble about nothing but random forces and limited aims.
Natural calamities and Golgotha have things in common.Stop trivialising these awful events! [You might want to read this.]
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabdiingword.com.