Monday, April 11, 2022

The Burden of Our Sin

 At the stoplight at Mountainview and Highway 219, I said to Jesus, "It's all very well to say you entered into our human condition, but--just asking--do you know what it is to be sexually abused, to be raped?" Jesus turned sad eyes on me and said, "Don't you know what men do to humiliate other men--with no desire except to exercise power over them?" I sat shocked and sorrowful. It had not occurred to me that Jesus--I cannot even write it.

And now, this snowy April day, the Monday of Holy Week, it comes back to me--a vision of Jesus on the cross, wounded intimately, perhaps welcoming the thrust of the spear piercing only his side and his heart.

I sit even more stunned today at the words of St. Paul: God made him sin who knew no sin--for us, human wretches  He took our sins into himself--an unimaginable piercing of his very nature, doing the will of his Father, taking our responsibility, taking responsibility for us. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Can this be so? After saying to one dying thief, "Today you will join me in Paradise," did he turn to the other, and with mournful gaze, signal to him, "Today I will be with you in Hell"? (Luke 23:43)

St. Peter says that Jesus descended into Hell and preached to the souls drowned in God's great repentance flood ("I repent me that I ever made humankind").  (1 Peter 3:19, 20) What was that sermon? "I have taken your sin, your mindless violence, your mindful cruelty, into myself so that you are saved from your sin and its results. Do you understand?"

I have always hated the notion that every petty and gross sin I commit adds to Jesus's suffering on the cross. And yet, I fear that it was so. Jesus has welcomed the suffering of victims--who can doubt this--but also the unfelt suffering of perpetrators. Jesus takes it all into himself, it has pierced him to his core.

And who of humankind is simply victim or perpetrator? Only perhaps the infant, helplessly self-absorbed, recently expelled from warmth, food, and the heartbeat of home.

This newest war--replete with cold-blooded torture and killing and desecration and thorough destruction--as all wars are--the rape of one nation by another: where is Jesus in this? 

Surely he carries both Russians and Ukrainians, their deeds of loyalty and caprice, their sins of commission and omission. How can anyone in a war obey the two greatest commandments--to love God more than country or anything else, to love the other as oneself. 

Jesus shoulders our burdens of sin--our betrayals like that of Judas, our perfidious committees like the cabal of Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians, our workmanlike cruelties like that of the Romans--he bears them from the very beginning to the moment of now. We have in Jesus a high priest who has suffered as we suffer, who is pierced through by and for our transgressions, who is touched by our infirmities, who knows our deepest fear that God cannot help but forsake us. (Hebrews 4:15, Isaiah 53:4, 5) And yet, though our sin broke Jesus's body and shed his blood, he now gives his body and blood to us in suppers both continuous and final, invites us to have our part in his life. (John 6:53)

I will not stop here because with broken-hearted gratitude I remember that Jesus rose from death bearing his scars and triumphing over sin and the devil, over our devils, leading the powers and principalities who play us for fools as his prisoners. (Colossians 2:15)

Our sin was not enough to destroy the Light of the World, the Eternal Word, the faithful Son of God, the Friend who shares a meal or two with his joyously baffled friends. Truly he has borne our griefs, surely he is carrying our sorrows, and by his suffering we are healed. God made him sin who knew no sin so that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Cor. 5:21)

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