For a week now, a great number of people all over the world have gotten themselves obsessed with the troubled interior life of a German pilot.
Last week, Holy Father condoled the families of the dead. He prayed for the repose of their souls. May they rest in peace. May the grieving find comfort.
Meanwhile, the television-viewing public wants to know: How could he do such a thing? How could the good-looking, athletic young pilot do it?
Also, the inveterate technocratic impulse of our age sounds-off in frantic sparks of pseudo-scientific desperation. How can we fix this? He can we prevent people from doing evil?
Change the cockpit door-lock system? Change the cockpit personnel requirements? Change the mental-health privacy rules? Change laws? Change policies? Lawsuits? Corporate cultures? Expert consultants? Fix it! Fix it! Fix it!
And there, standing right in the middle of the whole disaster, looming over the Alps like a giant gorilla, like King Kong, but a thousand times taller, standing with a truculent and boastful grin on his mangy face: Mysterium iniquitatis. The mystery of evil. Also known as: the unfathomably crafty Old Scratch.
The malice of Satan defies our humble human capacity for reason. Satan’s intelligence dwarfs ours by so many orders of magnitude, plenty of pagan people have believed that the evil power is equally omnipotent, right alongside the good power. Evil is a mystery of equal transcendence.
Actually, that’s closer to the truth than our contemporary delusion that we can somehow “solve” the problem of evil by using our human ingenuity. Evil actually is a lot more like a god than it is like a scientific problem for man to solve.
The Passion of Christ teaches us with perfect clarity that malice is a force capable of crushing human intelligence, like the tire of a tractor-trailer crushing an acorn on the macadam. Is there anything even remotely reasonable, sensible, or intelligent about the human actions involved in the spectacle that we hear recounted in the gospel?
“Here’s the gentlest person who ever walked the face of the earth. Let’s kill him! What good will it do us to kill him? Will it make our city more livable, our religion more practicable, or our political situation more secure? Hardly. But who cares! Will we feel good about this tomorrow? Shush! Who cares! Crucify him! Crucify him!”
That said, the Passion of Christ teaches us a second thing, too. Satan is neither as intelligent, nor as powerful, nor as crafty as God is.
Satan thought he had had a good day that Friday. Injustice, irresponsibility, craven dishonesty, and abject cruelty—all rolled into one spring morning. Satan was buffing his demonic fingernails.
But then God took it all—every malicious deformation of the human will that Jerusalem saw in its streets that day—God took it all, and, like an artist working with brush, palette, oils, and canvas, He took Satan’s best moves and produced the most beautiful moment of all time. God took every ugly aspect of the spectacle of Golgatha and painted a picture.
A picture of divine love. A picture of heavenly love. Of the triumph of love. Not mayhem, not destruction, not life-crushing cynicism. No.
Satan thought he had a trophy in his mangy hands. But the crucified Galilean rabbi is not Satan’s trophy. Gargantuan as Satan’s craftiness is, skillful as he is in leading people, and communities, and whole nations down the path to the smoldering fires of hell on earth…
God turned what Satan thought was his trophy into a dagger. Then He ripped Satan’s guts out with it. Because the crucified Galilean rabbi is not the ugliest, but in fact the most beautiful spectacle in the history of the world.
We human beings can do acts of unfathomable malice. But love wins. Love stands taller than the Alpine peaks. Love is inexhaustible.
From our humble vantage point, we do well to acknowledge that Satan has some serious game. Probably best for us to stop trying to outsmart him and focus instead on praying.
Praying to the King of Love, Who reigns on high. Christ has every human soul in His loving Hand. And Satan is not smarter than the Crucified.