A Cup Not Passing
On that wretched day, a God/Man bloodied a wooden cross in the great salvific act for mankind. He was a lamb, pure and unblemished, sacrificed upon the altar of the cross. Only he could have borne the full weight of mankind's sins and reconciled that same mankind to its creator. In the freedom of his love, God created them male and female and declared them to be good, but in their freedom, they, filled with pride, sinned and they declared themselves to be evil. In an act that some might interpret as God taking responsibility for the evils of his creation, he became an innocent sin-offering for all.
Did it have to happen that way? Were the Jewish leaders and the Roman officials merely functioning as actors in a divine drama? Was human free will subjugated to the Divine Will?
Could the crucifixion have been prevented? When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane asking the Father if it might be possible for the cup to pass from him, could it not have been possible? When told of the story of the crucifixion, the, still pagan, king of the Franks, Clovis is recorded to have said, "Oh, if only I had been there with my Franks!" The sin of Adam and, thus, all the sins of mankind that severed the loving relationship between the Creator and the created was a wound that needed healing. As the New Eve would place her foot upon the neck of the serpent, so the New Adam would reconcile a broken world with its Lord. Yes, it did have to happen that way, but I do not believe that is the proper way to formulate the question. Perhaps, it is more apt to ask why it had to happen that way. Human free will was in full vigor, but God's Will fully was aware of how the human being would react and how they would resolve what they considered to be the "problem" of Jesus of Nazareth. No, the cup would not pass and the passion of the Lord would serve as an act of atonement for the sins, emotionally and physically, being inflicted upon the Savior until his last breath. God's knowledge did not cause the horrors on that day of crucifixion, but defined the events of that day not as a final act of execution, but as an ultimate act of divine redemption. Upon that cross, Jesus endured the jeers of the cynical ones who challenged him to come down from that deadly instrument of humiliation, but Jesus's forgiveness of their ignorance and their sins confronted them to see the truth and to rise up to him.
To rise from our sins to the heights of salvation is to face the sly and crafty tendencies in human nature. In the conversation between Don Juan and the Devil in George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman, he writes, "Your friends are not religious: they are only pew renters. They are not moral: they are only conventional. They are not virtuous: they are only cowardly. They are not even vicious: they are only 'frail.' They are not artistic: they are only lascivious. They are not prosperous: they are only rich; not courageous: only quarrelsome; not masterful: only domineering." This holy season is an invitation to accomplish the truly real and the truly holy in our hearts and souls.
What can we say about all of us as we drink the draught of Lent? Oscar Wilde observed that in the presence of Jesus Christ, we become something. We did not travel the dusty streets and roads of Judea and Galilee; we did not witness the miracles that he performed; we were not there when he taught the crowds or fed the multitudes, we were not in the storm-tossed boat with the disciples when he calmed the seas, and we, certainly, were not among those who viewed our Savior upon the cross, but we are journeying with Jesus and we are asking the heartfelt questions and striving to grow in faith, and we are wringing our hearts and our souls in contrition for our sins, and, most of all, throughout Lent we are becoming something in the presence of Jesus Christ.
These forty days are as if we too fall to our knees in our own Gardens of Gethsemane and pray for strength to make our way on that Via Dolorosa that we call life and ask for what we need so that we might not fall and we might not fail. On the way we learn the unequivocal lesson that in Christ is our Way, our Truth, and our Life. Within that great discovery, we find the source of what we call human dignity and worth.
Self-respect cannot be hunted. It cannot be purchased. It is never for sale. It cannot be fabricated out of public relations. It comes to us when we re alone, in quiet moments, in quiet places, when we suddenly realize that , in knowing the good, we have done it; knowing the beautiful, we have served it; knowing the truth, we have spoken it.
Let the cup of suffering for our sins be passed among ourselves and let our awareness and understanding of them make us conquerors. For Lent is a story of ultimate victory and a story of divine love, in gratitude we praise and rejoice.