Summary: Our Lord spent His life teaching us to abandon our scripted behavior, our pursuit of pleasure for its own sake, our yearning for honor from others, for control over others.
Good Friday 2018
Scripted or Elastic
When returning home yesterday from our Holy Thursday Liturgy, the first act in this awesome drama of the Triduum, I heard a discussion with an author about the need to develop our innate ability to do “elastic thinking.” The idea is that the world is changing so fast that responding to change with an habitual script just doesn’t work any more. Two generations ago, if a child were caught stealing from a neighbor, physical punishment would probably result. Today, try that and you might end up with a visit from CPS. Knee-jerk responses to stimuli are often counter-productive. Instead, we are urged to be more flexible in our response, to ask questions, to encourage a change of mind and heart that would change behavior.
The idea isn’t new. Caiphas, confronted with this Galilean rabbi who rode into Jerusalem on a Messianic donkey, who upset all the merchants in the Temple and sent revenues plummeting right at the most lucrative time of the year, followed the script. He knew to bribe one of the rabbi’s friends into betraying him, run a kangaroo court, haul him before Pilate and have him crucified and left to rot on the cross. The Pharisees, faced with someone who put service and love before obeying the six-hundred plus injunctions of the law, agreed that he had to be eliminated. Barabbas and the local revolutionaries, put off by the rabbis plea to love their enemies, did not object. They all followed their scripts and this upstart Jesus was mocked, whipped, and driven out of the city to Skull Place, nailed up and executed.
The two brigands who were nailed on either side of the rabbi screamed and cursed everyone in sight, including the innocent in their midst. But when this rabbi was nailed down, he did something nobody had ever done before. He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It was a cry of mercy that cut two ways. For the hapless Roman soldier or mercenary wielding the hammer, all he knew was that this was another Jewish pseudo-Messiah who claimed to be “King of the Jews.” That was on the board above his head. So that one had no idea he was contributing to his own potential eternal salvation. For the chief priests and others who murdered Jesus knowing he might very well be the Messiah, who were following Satan’s script, they didn’t know that the very act of lifting Jesus up would drive a spike into Satan’s spine, would rip the temple veil and ultimately lead to the temple’s destruction. The only ones on that desolate hill of execution who really knew what they were doing were Jesus Himself, and His Blessed Mother, as they offered up the only real Paschal Lamb in sacrifice.
Our Lord spent His life teaching us to abandon our scripted behavior, our pursuit of pleasure for its own sake, our yearning for honor from others, for control over others. He asked us to adopt a true elastic habit of thought–to think with the mind of God how to do good for others, how to act as He and His Mother habitually did. Today the world wants us to adopt its own scripted behavior, pretending that little children, priceless in God’s eyes, are worthless and without rights. The world wants us to believe and act as if our own pleasure is more important than respect for others, paying a just wage, helping the poor, giving relief to the embattled Christians in the Holy Land. Jesus asks us to think and act first for those children, those poor, those immigrants, those homeless, those fellow Catholics under persecution. Moreover, through His passion, death and resurrection, He has given us the sacraments that change us, empower us, enliven us for action. As we continue our journey, let’s pray that we can be in our own world as Jesus and Mary were in theirs–apostles of Truth, Beauty, Goodness and Love.