Again and again, God's love collides with human sin and suffering. As we re-enter the week that changed the world, the reality of Jesus' free and total gift of himself confronts the illogic of a disordered and broken human race.
Looking back, we can see that the fate of the Innocent One was effectively sealed after he had raised Lazarus from the dead: The high priest Caiaphas told the Sanhedrin, "it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish" (Jn 11:50). This cold rationalization flings the religious powers-that-be toward the evil they will soon inflict upon Goodness himself. It also provides the justification for all of the sin and evil which continue to our day.
Indeed, whenever the "end" or "goal" becomes an excuse for resorting to unjust "means" or "methods," the innocent suffer, and the Passion plays itself out once again:
- Another Last Supper: How many economic migrants and refugees find themselves forced to leave their homes and families, simply to seek work? Multinational corporations and global markets must come first; we would never want these to perish, so it is better that families be broken apart. How many of these farewells involved a lurking sense that they would not eat and drink together again, until they meet anew in the kingdom of our Father (Mt 26:29)?
- Another Night of Agony: How many women find themselves abandoned by the men who have fathered the new life within them? How many people feel compelled to consider "physician assisted suicide," so they won't be a "burden" to their families? There seems to be no way out, and one's whole identity seems to be hanging in the balance. How many consider the unthinkable simply because their friends "could not keep watch with them for an hour" (Mt 26:40)?
- Another Betrayal: How many spouses and children find themselves cast aside by their presumed beloved? For Judas, it was 30 pieces of silver; for many today, it's often one's almighty emotional wants and whims. It's better that this relationship should die, so that I can be happy, we are tempted to tell ourselves. How many of these betrayals are completed with a kiss (Mt 26:49)?
- Another "Trial" and Conviction, Absent Evidence: How many people will die this week because of state-sanctioned executions? Whether it is from drone strikes from 20,000 feet, or whether it is another rigged trial designed to silence those who ask too many questions, the needs of the nation are an easy excuse for trumping the rights of the individual. How many false witnesses come forward each day (Mt 26:60), and how many find themselves convicted and executed without a fair trial?
- Another Abused and Tortured Victim: How many souls find themselves confined to sweatshops, become victims of human trafficking, or suffer from the scourge which is the international sex trade? We convince ourselves that freedom must be unfettered; therefore, some individuals may need to suffer. Appetites for cheap goods and services, as well as the billion dollar pornography industry: In reality, we know that there are no victimless crimes. How many find themselves spat upon and struck in the head, day after day (Mt 27:30)?
- Another Cross Carried: How many Christians are persecuted because of their faithfulness to Jesus? Whether it's explicit antagonism from hostile forces or implicit censure by an intolerant radical secularism, Christians increasingly find the world hostile to religious liberty. The allegedly just needs of the state increasingly require that Christians silence themselves, or prepare to be silenced. How many find themselves mocked and derided, stripped in various ways, and then led down a path of suffering (Mt 27:31)?
- Another Crucifixion: How many will die a brutal death today? Whether it be from starvation, from the violence of drug traffickers, from acts of terror, or from civil war: Satan seems to be laughing last and loudest. How many echo Jesus' cry from the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" (Mt 27:46)?
But the question is whether we will continue to rationalize and justify our own complicity with evil, or whether we will enter into and help take on the sufferings of our wounded world. With Joseph of Arimathea, let's help take down Jesus' broken body, wrap it in linen and lay it in a new tomb (Mt 27:59-60). From there, our Lord will take care of making all things new.