Did you ever think that each Holy Week we celebrate the greatest systemic change in human consciousness ever?
We speak all too glibly of the scandal of the cross… which began as the scandal of the crib. But what happened then was a systemic change in the way we think about God and ourselves.
Do you understand?
Jesus’ question at the Last Supper rings as true today as when he first raised the question.
“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Know that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13: 11-17
Our image of God vs. God’s actions
The operative image of God for most Christians (except for the mystics) is a powerful monarch, usually an old white man sitting on a throne. It’s no accident that the Latin word for God, Deus, came from the same root as Zeus. Some would say that Christianity hasn’t moved much beyond the mythological image of Zeus. Sometimes God is referred to as “the man upstairs.”
In fact, many are not too far from an unreflective image of God as the Divine vending machine who will reward us if we do and say the right things.
Yet this is not the image of God revealed to us by Jesus— a vulnerable baby born in an occupied and oppressed land; a refugee; a humble carpenter whose friends were fishermen, prostitutes, and tax-collectors; a political criminal executed on a cross. In other words, Jesus shows a vulnerable God much more than the almighty one Christians often assume.
God comes through powerlessness and humility! Talk about a paradigm shift! God is present in loving service more than power and might.
“I know where I came from and where I am going,” Jesus says, “but you do not” (John 8:14). So he came to tell us! And show us!
I come from a loving God and I go back to a loving God.
It puts new meaning on the words, “Do this in memory of me.” “Love one another as I have loved you.”
It also gives new meaning to a reading used in the liturgy for St. Vincent.
“God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are” (1 Cor 1:27-28).
How radical that seemed to the Corinthians… but not to Vincent and Louise and those who follow.
- Can I accept the scandal of the cross and the crib – a God without the trappings of power?
- Am I an unwitting devotee of the gospel of prosperity where a good life is a reward for doing the right thing?
- Am I willing to wash the feet of others even as God Incarnate has washed my feet?
PS For a fascinating overview of the human development in consciousness as found in Hebrew scripture visit this summary of the work of Walter Brueggeman.