Last week I went to a solemn mass, one in which the story of Jesus being crucified is laid out in agonizing detail, from his best of friends and supporters denying they even knew him to the excruciating physical pain of hanging on a cross until his last, troubled breath was taken. As the story is completed, as Jesus has died in this ultimate act of love, there was complete silence in the church. And though I am a lapsed Catholic, former altar boy and Theology major, so I have heard this story countless times before, the profundity of this moment still moves me in a way like no other.
It has never been important to me to believe in a God that has been constructed through the years by word of mouth and then through written words by people who did not live in Jesus’s time. I simply don’t deny or affirm the existence of God in this context. It is way beyond my pay grade, as I look into seemingly endless skies and planets thousands of light years away.
I also think of organized religions and their endless adoration of their God. This has always struck me as strange, like God may be this wonderful, all-benevolent being but still expects and desires us to exalt him. I just don’t see a selfless, all-loving God being concerned about this in the slightest. No, this adoration fixation parallels a worldly leader wanting his subjects to remain in line so as to keep his power safe. And this is antithetical to the life of Jesus, which brings me back to the solemn mass of last week.
Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., writes about Jesus describing “what it means to worship a man crucified as a criminal.” Wehner’s primary point is the singularity of a God who has suffered himself in service to others. Jesus absorbs our collective suffering and pain through the crucifixion. I believe this is what makes the death of Jesus on the cross so profound. As we follow our worldly, self-interested superficial pursuits believing they can bring happiness by themselves, Jesus enters and tells a radically different story…that love is our highest calling, that love is the only path to joy and to peace. With no army as enforcers, somehow Jesus’s teachings, by word and example, resonate within the hearts, souls and minds of men and women in the deepest of ways. To this very day. Amen. Happy Easter to all.