A few days ago, I posted a short reflection on this coming Sunday's Gospel regarding the apostle Thomas' encounter with the risen Jesus, who invited him to touch his wounds and believe. During lectio this morning, I ran across this passage in Pope Benedict XVI's new book Jesus of Nazareth, Part Two: Holy Week, from the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. It is a wonderfully lucid insight, I think, as to how the cross of Christ heals us despite our objections. Even if we're OK with the Resurrection, we'd rather leave the Cross behind. However, they are one reality, and like Thomas, Jesus invites us to touch his wounds so that we may believe and be healed. As the First Letter of St. Peter tells us: "By his wounds, you have been healed" (1Peter 2:24):
In Jesus' Passion, all the filth of the world touches the infinitely pure one, the soul of Jesus Christ and hence, the Son of God himself. While it is usually the case that anything unclean touching something clean renders it unclean, here it is the other way around: when the world, with all the injustice and cruelty that make it unclean, comes into contact with the infintely pure one--then he, the pure one, is stronger. Through this contact, the filth of the world is truly absorbed, wiped out, and transformed in the pain of infinite love.Of course, as I have mentioned in previous posts, the "Exclamation Point" to all this is the Resurrection of Christ, which we celebrate this Easter season, and hopefully, every day of our Christian lives. The Resurrection changed everything. It is our hope. If not, then why else did weak, frightened apostles who understandably abandoned Jesus on the cross suddenly find the courage and strength and motivation to gather and proclaim his name throughout the world?
Because infinite good is now at hand in the man Jesus, the counterweight to all wickedness is present and active within world history, and the good is always infinitely greater than the vast mass of evil, however terrible it might be.
If we reflect more deeply on this insight, we find the answer to an objection that is often raised against the idea of atonement. Again and again people say: It must be a cruel God who demands infinite atonement. However, the real forgiveness accomplished on the cross functions in exactly the opposite direction. The reality of evil and injustice that disfigures the world and at the same time distorts the image of God--this reality exists, through our sin. It cannot simply be ignored; it must be addressed. But here it is not a case of a cruel God demanding the infinite. It is exactly the opposite: God himself becomes the locus of reconciliation, and in the person of his Son takes the suffering upon himself.
God himself grants his infinite purity to the world. God himself "drinks the cup" of every horror to the dregs and thereby restores justice through the greatness of his love, which, through suffering, transforms the darkness.
If it were all a hoax, a lie, then why not simply fade into safe anonymity? Instead, they began building something wonderful--and most of them paid for it with their lives. If the cross and resurrection are not historical realities, then none of that makes any sense.
Therefore, the image of Jesus on the cross is not one of horror, but of human healing through the grace and peace of God. It is Divine Mercy -- the image of Beauty and Truth personified.
"Do not be unbelieving, but believe" (John 20:27)