Every year around this time, those of us who try to walk the path first walked by a rabbi from Nazareth are faced, again and always, with the oxymoronic wounded God that we all follow.
By definition Jesus was divine. By definition he was human. And because he was human, he had to break; he had to die; God had to do what we all do. And before he died, he did what we all do: he agonized.
Most people regard Easter as the holiday that sets Christians apart from others. If we remove the miraculous conception, Christmas is easy to comprehend: A baby is born! Yay hurray! Bring on the chocolate Santas! But Easter? A man, put away to rot inside a tomb, waking and rising and walking again among his friends? That’s a whole lot of supernatural stuffy-stuff to swallow, and yet I swallow it each and every time I receive Communion.
But I think of Easter as the great and unifying narrative arc that speaks to our grubby mortal essence. Imagine a God who chooses to die in sympathy with the entirety of humankind: What would that mean? It would mean a birth, and a life, and tears, and a wound, and a death, but it would also mean something more. He is God, after all; the bar is set rather high. And what means more in the wake of death than life?
I don’t believe that Jesus came to save the lucky few who see and worship him as I do. I believe he came and saved everyone, past or present, from well before his time to long after ours. I believe that we’re always saved, always broken, always doomed to die and yet always touched by the divine. I believe that God’s Now is forever, and that if, as Paul wrote, “Christ died for the ungodly,” then that means every last blooming one of us, from devout believers to utter atheists with every conceivable subset and gradation in between.
Who isn’t broken? Who’s not ungodly? Who isn’t pained by life and its burdens? This brokenness is one big reason I converted and one big reason I still believe: because I am sloppy mess! And so I follow the one who gets my sloppy-messiness and feels my pain. The dude lived it.
So tonight the kids and I head off to the Holy Thursday Mass —
the evocation of Jesus’ Last Supper, which was, quite possibly, a Seder on the opening night of Passover. Do this, he’ll say, and break the bread. Tomorrow he’ll die on the cross with a gash in his side. On Easter, he’ll rise.
And then he’ll start all over again, and we will, too.