It strains the imagination to think that anyone acquainted with the process would ever think of crucifixion as glorifying. It was an execution designed to terrorize a population into submission. It was prolonged, public, excruciating, suffocation. When Rome crucified someone, they wanted everyone to get and remember a stark message: don’t defy the Empire. When the gospel narrator portrayed Jesus speaking of his coming death in heroic terms, he was speaking not of the execution itself but of the astounding commitment to his people that he was about to demonstrate by not running from his immanent death. And beneath that demonstration was the deeper point summed up in Jesus’ statement, “When you see me, you see the Father.”
That a Creator would have such love for a creature makes no sense. It’s inexplicable. It stretches the imagination to the breaking point. But that’s the revelation. That’s what Jesus’ life was all about. That’s Christianity’s core message.
We get the idea at times that we’re to convince folks that God is a trinity of three persons or that the Mass really makes Jesus present in communion or that the Bible is God’s word. As important as those ideas are, they’re wrapping paper for the faith.
What people need to know is that the source of the universe knows and loves them and will never abandon them. We have been told that. It is our job to tell the world; not with bluster or cajoling, not with velvet words or clever ads but by being there for them. Being there in the good times and when things are tough, when folks aren’t appreciative and, especially, when everyone else grabs their stuff and lights out for the hills. That’s when folks will know that we have something true to say, when they see that we ourselves are true – to them.
“Nearing his final revelation of God’s love Jesus told his followers, To be part of God’s future world, you must be there for people in the world as it is. You can’t run away. You have to stand with them. Then they’ll understand.”