Kargador at Dawn

Kargador at Dawn
Work in the Vineyard

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Triduum Meditation: The Scapegoat!

On the Day of Atonement (see Leviticus 16:21 – 22) a goat was brought into the sanctuary. The high priest would lay his hands on the goat and all the sins and failures of the people were ceremonially laid on the goat, and the goat was sent out into the desert to die.

What immediately follows from the scapegoat story of Leviticus 16 is what is called “The Law of Holiness” (Leviticus 17 – 27), which largely defines holiness as separation from evil—which is exactly what they had just ritualized.

Three thousand years later human consciousness hasn’t moved a great deal beyond that, despite the message of the cross. Jesus does not define holiness as separation from evil as much as absorption and transformation of it, where in I pay the price instead of always asking others to pay the price.

We, who worship the scapegoat, Jesus, became many times in history the primary scapegoaters ourselves: Jews, heretics, sinners, witches, homosexuals, the poor, other denominations, other religions.

The pattern of exporting our evil elsewhere, and righteously hating it there, is in the hardwiring of all peoples. After all, our task is to separate from evil, isn’t it? That is the lie! Any exclusionary process of thinking, any exclusively dualistic thinking, will always create violent people on some level. That I state as an absolute, and precisely because the cross revealed it to me.

The crucifixion scene is our standing icon stating both the problem and the solution for all of history.

We would all agree that evil is to be rejected and overcome; the only question is, how? How can we stand against evil without becoming a mirror—but denied—image of the same? That is often the heart of the matter, and in my experience is resolved successfully by a very small portion of people, even though it is quite clearly resolved in the life, death and teaching of Jesus.

[Jesus gives us] a totally different way of dealing with evil—absorbing it in God (which is the real meaning of the suffering body of Jesus) instead of attacking it outside. It is undoubtedly the most counterintuitive theme of the entire Bible.

What has happened in human history is this. We have always needed to find a way to deal with human anxiety and evil by some means—and it was invariably some “technology” other than forgiveness.

We usually dealt with human anxiety and evil by sacrificial systems, and that has largely continued to this day.

Historically, we at least moved from human sacrifice to animal sacrifice, to various modes of seeming self-sacrifice. Unfortunately it was not usually the ego self that we sacrificed, but most often the body self as its vicarious substitute. In forgiveness, it is precisely my ego self that has to die, my need to be right, to be in control, to be superior. Very few want to go there, but that is exactly what Jesus emphasized and taught. I am told that forgiveness is at least implied in two-thirds of his teaching!

As long as you can deal with evil by some other means than forgiveness, you will never experience the real meaning of evil and sin. You will keep projecting it over there, fearing it over there and attacking it over there, instead of “gazing” on it within and “weeping” over it within all of us.

The longer you gaze, the more you will see your own complicity in and profitability from the sin of others, even if it is the satisfaction of feeling you are on higher moral ground.

Forgiveness is probably the only human action that demands three new “seeings” at the same time: I must see God in the other, I must access God in myself, and I must see God in a new way that is larger than “an Enforcer.”

[Christianity] is the only religion in the world that worships the scapegoat as God.
In worshiping the scapegoat, we should gradually learn to stop scapegoating, because we also could be utterly wrong, just as “church” and state, high priest and king, Jerusalem and Rome, the highest levels of discernment were utterly wrong in the death of Jesus. He was the very one that many of us call the most perfect man who ever lived!

If power itself can be that wrong, then be careful whom you decide to hate, kill and execute. Power and authority are not good guides, if we are to judge by history. For many, if not most people, authority takes away all of their anxiety, and often their own responsibility to form a mature conscience.

(Richard Rohr, OFM from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, p.194 )

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Passion (Palm) Sunday

Holy Week begins on "Passion (or Palm) Sunday" which joins the foretelling of Christ's regal triumph and the proclamation of the passion. The connection between both aspects of the Paschal Mystery is shown beginning from the commemoration of the entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem to his journey to the Calvary where Jesus willing assumed to be the ransom for our sins.

According to ancient custom, the celebration of Palm Sunday begins with a solemn procession, in which the faithful in song and gesture imitate the Hebrew children who went to meet the Lord singing "Hosanna."

The palms or olive branches are blessed so that they can be carried in the procession. Then the faithful bring home the palms where they serve as a reminder of the victory of Christ which they celebrated in the procession.

The second drama of the celebration is the proclamation of the passion of the Lord. The passion narrative occupies a special place in the liturgical celebration. This is the first proclamation of the Lord’s passion in the Liturgy thus the name Passion Sunday.

The triumphant entry to Jerusalem is contrasted to the journey to Calvary. Both journeys show the character of the crowd which in many ways represents, too, our own fickleness and flaws. The former is presented as a triumph where the crowd and children sang “Hosanna” acclaiming Jesus as Messiah and Lord. The latter shows the same crowd shouting “Crucify him” and dissociating themselves from him who offered his own life and dying in the cross in ignominy.

In similar vein, the challenge today to all Christians this Holy Week is to locate themselves between the two contrasting dramas unfolding in Jerusalem. Definitely, there is a clear disconnect between the celebration of the Lord’s triumphant entry to Jerusalem and the proclamation of the Lord’s passion that ends on Good Friday. But the same disconnect is, often, echoed in our confession of faith and the concrete witness of our actions vis-à-vis the same faith.

But when everything is said and done, we simply stand in awe at the beauty of the Passion Sunday celebration. It proclaims that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. His passion and death assumed our sins and has opened the mystery of God’s incomprehensible mercy and pardon. Jesus’ self-expenditure in the Cross has become the powerful symbol of God’s love and compassion. God has not spared his only begotten Son that we may have life and life to the full. (Editorial, Mindanao Cross, 04 April 2009)