A broad perspective

The murky world of crime and punishment is inhabited by people who can also rise to greatness and holiness. When Jesus was dying on the cross the general mood of the bystanders was one of jeering and mockery. “After all his claims, now look at him!” But there was one man who found it within himself to break with the mood and make an independent stand; “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

The gospel preserves this amazing act of defiance against the trend. Here was a man willing to stand out, and he was a criminal. We know Jesus’ answer, “indeed, today you will be with me in paradise.” There were crowds of people who welcomed Jesus with palm branches into Jerusalem the week before but there was only one now, and he a criminal.

The Church’s year ends today – next week will be Advent – and it does so with a bang. Not only do we have this amazing confession from a criminal but we have words that seem very far removed from the abandoned figure dying on a cross. It is astonishing how quickly the Church came to see this crucified Jesus of Nazareth as the Lord of all history. “In him were created all things in heaven and on earth: everything visible and everything invisible … before anything was created he existed and he holds all things in unity … God wanted all things to be reconciled through him …” (Col 1: 15-20).

This breadth of vision – this seeing the Lord of all in a crucified man – carries over into seeing the dignity and destiny of all our brothers and sisters. There are no exceptions. There is news today of an agreement between the Iranians and six other countries about its nuclear enrichment programme. For more than 30 years Iran has been isolated and distrusted. The one word the media keeps coming up with is ‘trust’.

For all this time there has been no trust but now there is a beginning of trust. Just a little bit of trust can be something to build on, whether it is in a marriage going through difficulties or relations between states. It is a risky step to trust someone. Some feel more secure if they can build walls and fences and have armed guards. Then you don’t have to make the effort to trust. But to trust is to say, “Wait a minute, these people are no different from us. They have the same basic needs and hopes as us. ‘Look we are your own flesh and blood.’” (2 Sam 5:1).

Maybe I am wrong, but as far as I know this is the first ever agreement negotiated by a Muslim state and a group of states marked by Christian origins that has ever been negotiated on the basis of equals. It is progress.

Post published in: Faith

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