[If I could preach this Sunday, I would say this…]
The Son of God suffered a cruel and unjust execution. The Roman officers brutalized Him without regard for life. They acted with depraved minds. [Spanish]
We would convict them of murder, in a court of law. Government should prevent what happened to Jesus of Nazareth. Yet, in this case, the officers did the evil.
Which means: In the flesh of His Son, God Almighty has shared in this kind of death.
Death always bothers us human beings. But Satan shows all his hatred for humanity in a case like this, when government officers take part in a cruel and wrongful death. In Christ, God Himself died this way.
My dear, departed father tried to teach me something, thirty years ago, when I was a cheeky college student. Dad tried to explain to me that black Americans have a special privilege in identifying with the Sacred Scriptures. He told me: centuries of slavery formed the community into a kind of new Israel. The black-American experience united itself with the Bible’s story of liberation from slavery, in a unique way. I needed to respect that, my dad told me.
Now, when he tried to teach me this, I argued with my father. Hold on, I said. We’re all sinners. We all need a Savior to liberate us. The Lord Jesus unites us in one Church–black, white, and brown—all on equal footing, all united with God through humble faith and the sacraments.
God has loved us all, in His unjustly crucified Son. He prepared rooms for us all, in the Father’s house, when He died for us.
I made some good arguments with my father, I think. But the truth is, my dad had memories that I did not have.
He remembered the non-violent Civil Rights Movement. My dad had seen with his own eyes the peaceful protests led by Dr. King. How they marched unarmed, like lambs led to slaughter, to stir the conscience of the nation.
One of the ancient centurions experienced that stirring of conscience. He had played his part in the brutal crucifixion squad. He had the innocent rabbi’s blood on his hands.
But seeing the Lamb of God suffer and die with such serenity, offering Himself to the Father with zealous love for the world’s salvation; hearing Jesus pray for everyone who persecuted, tortured, and killed Him; then the signs of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice—the experience moved the centurion’s conscience. Truly this was the Son of God.
Things seems pretty hopeless in our country right now. I have grown older than my dad was, when he tried to teach me respect for the special holiness of black-American Christianity. I’m old enough to remember the sleepless nights of the Rodney-King riots of 1992.
Almost thirty years have passed since then. The length of a generation, spent talking about a problem, without making much progress. Thirty years of 1,000 black babies aborted every day, triple the per-capita percentage for whites.
(John Wayne cameo in the The Greatest Story Ever Told)
Where can the conversation even start now? How about these two ideas:
1. Due process and the rule of law. Criminal prosecution, based on clear evidence. This can, and does, bring about justice, when you take cronyism out of the mix.
I find myself languishing in the ecclesiastical gulag right now for this fundamental idea: A priest or bishop who abuses a minor should face criminal prosecution just like anyone else, without any cover-up.
Same goes for police officers. We can have due process and the rule of law, applying the rules to everyone fairly. We can do that, in the USA. We must do that,
Looking back, when I argued with my dad, I think I misunderstood him. I thought he was arguing for two “levels” of American Christian. First, the JV team: white Christians. Then, the varsity: black-American Christians who could relate to the Bible better.
But I don’t think my dad had that in mind, to separate the teams like that. I think he meant only to help me focus on… The Answer. The common ground that makes enemies brothers.
Jesus Christ, though innocent, suffered. He submitted Himself to wrongful death, by officers of the state, in order to help the unrighteous and unjust. Divine light shone from the bloodied Holy Face, to cleanse consciences. To reconcile and bring peace. The serene suffering of Christ crucified opens up a new future.
Christ crucified remains our Savior. We must behold Him where He can be seen. He remains with us, drawing us through honest tears to the mystery of divine peace.
We all have to gaze at the horrible suffering. Then we can find hope and an honest step forward. Because Jesus lives.