But how did Jesus do it? How is death tamed? How did he free us from sin? He walked our roads and invited us to follow him. He raised us from our ‘daze’ (Mk 10:32), lifting us to believe that if we choose him he will show us the way.
He was determined, setting his face like ‘flint’ (Is 50:7), facing whatever evil could throw at him and never giving in. Evil crushed him, but only physically. It tormented him and killed him, but it could do no more. He showed that, although we are ‘body’, we are more than body. We are spirit. Nothing on this earth can crush spirit.
The spirit of a person, of a society and of the world grows and grows – like a mustard seed. This is beautifully shown in the most recent Council, the meeting of two and a half thousand bishops at the Vatican in the 1960s. The Council placed the Church at the heart of humanity and, perhaps for the first time, claimed that the secular is the proper realm of God’s dynamic and saving love. The Church manifests Christ as the soul of humanity, the life-giving leaven of creation.
And, also for the first time, the Council welcomed the achievements of the Enlightenment, the age of reason, which broke upon the Church in the seventeenth century and seemed such a threat then. As the centuries passed, the Church acknowledged the fruits of that age in, for example, the emphasis on human freedom which the prophets of reason proclaimed, And, as James Hanvey strikingly wrote, ‘the Council out-thinks the secular atheistic view and asserts that secularism is an integral part of the incarnation’. Freedom is not claiming our absolute autonomy but recognises that we are called to go beyond ourselves. This is not a limitation but a fulfilment.
All this is contained in the Easter message but now there is something more. The Church must listen and learn from secular research. It was not priests and bishops who laid bear our sins in the abuse scandals but the journalists. It is they who fearlessly battered us, like the widow with the unjust judge in the gospel. Finally we paid attention. It has been painful but now we – insofar as we have listened – , and those we abused, are free. We are humbled and purified like brash Peter when Jesus ‘looked at him… and he went out and wept’ (Lk 22:61).Post published in: Faith