November 16, 2005

Notes on Msgr. Lane's Talk on the Passion of the Lord:

Christians have struggled with the Crucifixion since the very beginning, going back to the account of the men on the road to Emmaus. "What does this mean?". Some early Christian thinkers came up with a legalistic view, that humans errored and it makes sense that only God can appease God. But that's horrible. What kind of God sends His Son to die in order to appease Himself?

Another way to look at it is to recall that we are made in the image and likeness of God which is reflected in human freedom. Freedom is what makes us human and able to relate to God in a one-to-one in a friendship relationship rather than a dependent, destructive way. Look at families where a parent watches every thing the child does and forces obedience - that child is not free and ultimately bears a hatred towards his parents.

God intended Jesus as a gift. He said as it were, "go down and give yourself to them, put yourself in their hands." Gift, not appeasement. It is human nature to be threatened by holiness since we have constructed a world and are comfortable with it as it is. Look at the simple matter of going to Mass on Sunday and how many do not avail themselves?

Read the language describing moment of Christ's death. It is the triumph of chaos. It is the only way the Hebrew writers, who could not use an abstraction, could describe nihilism, nothingness. The darkness descending over the abyss, the wind over it, recalls Genesis before the creation of the world. The world was ending. God was dying in a very real sense, not just the more trivial sense in which Jesus was just giving up a body that was a lot of trouble anyway. But Mary and John at the foot of the Cross held the world together, kept the chaos from completely abolishing existence for the three days before the Resurrection. In some mysterious way. Mary, a symbol of the Church, and John a symbol of the priesthood, saved the world. Did they know it? No. They were at the cross out of love for the son and their friend. The giving of the Holy Spirit created a new world, re-enacting the story in Genesis. And now the Church and the sacraments through the ministry of the priesthood keep the world in existence before the Second Coming. We are in a sense re-enacting the interval between the death of Christ and his Resurrection, awaiting his Second Coming as Mary and John awaited His Resurrection. Christians are keeping the world in existence.

And so why can't it be over now? Because of human freedom. He asks us to come, little by little, inviting us to come closer. It is fraught with failure and we experience it in our human relations. Love is existential, experiential, you can't learn it from a definition of a book, even Scripture. It has to be made concrete, in the harshness of saying 'yes' amid the chaos, as Mary and John did at the foot of the Cross. A relationship with God is not behavioral, moral in the sense of "I'm a good person". It is relational, an invitation and beckoning to come nearer.

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