Of the many stories of horror, cruelty, and courage to reach us from the Shoah, one in particular, witnessed by the Nobel-Laureate Elie Wiesel at Auschwitz, is especially poignant. It involves the summary execution of a young boy at the notorious death camp. The boy had been caught by a death-camp guard in some minor infraction of camp discipline. After questioning the child to determine his alleged “guilt,” the commandant decided to make an example of the boy to his fellow prisoners. So, he ordered the whole camp to assemble at dawn the next morning to witness the boy’s execution. When the prisoners had been herded into the freezing, snowy yard of the camp, the frightened child was dragged before them, stripped of his clothing, and hung from a makeshift gallows as the entire prisoner population watched in helpless horror. The camp guard who had caught the boy in his petty infraction then turned to a rabbi-prisoner and asked in a sneering voice, “So, rabbi, where is your God now?” The rabbi looked his tormentor in the eye and calmly pointed to the twisting body of the hanging child. “There he is,” the rabbi said, “hanging from your gallows.” Continue reading →
For though the dear humanity of Christ could only suffer once, his goodness would always make him willing to do so — every day if need be. If he were to say that for love of me he would make a new heaven and a new earth, this would be a comparatively simple matter; something he could do every day if he wanted, with no great effort. But for love of me to be willing to die times without number — beyond human capacity to compute — is, to my mind, the greatest gesture our Lord God could make to the human soul. This is his meaning: ‘How could I not, out of love for you, do all I can for you? This would not be difficult, since for love of you I am ready to die often, regardless of the suffering.’
— From Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich (1342-1416)
The disappointments of Holy Week and the bitterness of Easter Communion at St. Paul’s [Episcopal Church in Selma, AL] forced our eyes back to the inscription over the altar: HE IS NOT HERE. FOR HE IS RISEN. In a dreadful parody of their meaning, the words seemed to tell a grim truth that was not exhausted by their liturgical import.
This is the stuff of which our life is made. There are moments of great joy and moments of sorrow. Almost imperceptibly, some men grow in grace. Some men don’t. Christian hope, grounded in the reality of Easter, must never degenerate into optimism. For that is the road to despair. Yet it ought never to conclude that because its proper end is heaven, the church may dally at its work until the end is in sight. The thought of the church is fraught with tension because the life of the church is caught in tension. For the individual Christian and the far-flung congregation alike, that is part of the reality of the Cross.
Jesus has shown in his own person all the fullness of life offered on the tree of the cross. For me this tree is a plant of eternal health. I feed on it; by its roots I ﬁnd stability; by its branches I reach out to others. I rejoice in its dew; I am invigorated by the rustling of its leaves. I freely enjoy its fruits as if they were meant just for me from the beginning of the world. It is my food when I am hungry; it is my fountain when I am thirsty; it is my very clothing, for its leaves are the spirit of life.
The tree of which I speak has celestial dimensions, reaching from earth to heaven, a plant of eternity which is planted in both heaven and earth, the foundation of the universe, gathering under its canopy all the diverse peoples of the world, fastened by invisible nails of the Spirit, so that its link with divine power may never be broken. Continue reading →
I think we all know what’s coming. I think we know what Jesus means when he says in today’s Gospel lesson, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” I think we know, too, what the author of the letter to the Hebrews means when he says that Jesus is a high priest who “suffered” and was “made perfect.” I think we all know that next Sunday is Palm Sunday and the week following is Holy Week. I think we all know what’s coming; we all know that Jesus’ Passion and death are just around the corner.
If I’m not mistaken, there seems to be a certain giddiness in today’s readings. Notice, for example, the triumphant tone in the letter to the Hebrews: Jesus has “been made perfect,” and has “been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.” Notice how in John Jesus bravely and serenely predicts the manner of his death: “I, when I am raised up, will draw all people to myself.” And notice how Jeremiah excitedly speaks of a new and better covenant known by all: “I will write it on their hearts… and they all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” Continue reading →