This has been a bloody week. Christians need not re-envision the troubled state of 1st century Palestine in order to enter into the mysteries of the Passion. It is enough to look at the horrific occurrences in Tibet and Iraq in the last few days to recognize that Christ continues to suffer in his people and to suffer what he suffered once and for all in his human body that now reigns at the heart of the Trinity. There is nothing but mystery and paradox in this. As Bernard stated famously: "God cannot suffer, but he can suffer with." And so Christ, no longer suffering, suffers with, until all is accomplished. Benedict's words ring strong and true once again to a proud American policy whose persistent idolatries have led to so much pain:
"Enough with the slaughters. Enough with the violence. Enough with the hatred in Iraq!" Benedict said to applause at the end of his Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square.On Thursday, the body of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was found near Mosul. He had been abducted on Feb. 29.Benedict has called Rahho's death an "inhuman act of violence" that offended human dignity.Benedict said Rahho's dedication to the Catholic Church and his death compelled him to "raise a strong and sorrowful cry" to denounce the violence in Iraq spawned by the war that began five years ago this week."At the same time, I make an appeal to the Iraqi people, who for the past five years have borne the consequences of a war that provoked the breakup of their civil and social life," Benedict said.He urged them to raise their heads and reconstruct their life through "reconciliation, forgiveness, justice and coexistence among tribal, ethnic and religious groups.""To recognize God, we must abandon the pride that dazzles us, that seeks to push us away from God," he said. To find God, he said, "we must learn to see with a young heart, one which isn't blocked by prejudice and dazzled by interests."
I offer another reflection from the great Jesuit Yves De Montcheuil who died at the hands of the Nazi powers because of his resistance to anti-semitism. His words continue to ring true in a global world where the price of solidarity is yet to be understood by all those who calls themselves by the name of Christian.
We cannot slumber while Jesus Christ himself is being put to the test along with anyone who has discovered in the message of that same Jesus Christ the revelation that illuminates his liberty and his destiny. "Let your yes be yes, and your no, no." No compromise is possible. Christian witness cannot at one and the same time attempt to say Yes and No. To be clear about this is in no way to compromise the Church in her temporal existence.
What is the price of that great virtue that John Paul II called solidarity? What does it demand of us? Is this a question that Christians are seriously taking to prayer, asking what rights, what privileges, what benefits, what goods, what freedoms they must give up for the sake of the weakest, smallest child in Africa? Benedict's recent quotations from Dostoevsky in Spe Salvi prove to us that his ideas are not dead. Far from it, they continue to live powerfully. In the words of Father Zossima, which I wish to reflect on further this week, is the strongest call yet to that great virtue of solidarity. It is his words that John Paul II echoes in his own powerful call in Solicitudo Rei Socialis. What is solidarity?
It is the firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.
That is a direct quote from Dostoevsky in the Brothers Karamazov. Yet, except among certain saints who profoundly transcended their times, has this responsibility of all for all, that virtue and transformation of life that Christ's passion calls for, has that even yet begun to take root in Christians' lives? What is the price of solidarity? Do we realize that it transcends justice, that it exists only in the realm of gratuitous self-sacrificing love? If so, it is a journey that will continue to call out from us resources we never knew we had. As our unexpected commentator Cormac McCarthy tells us:
He thought that in the beauty of the world were hid a secret. He thought that the world's heart beat at some terrible cost and that the world's pain and its beauty moved in a relationship of diverging equity and that in this headlong deficit the blood of multitudes might ultimately be exacted for the vision of a single flower.
Only if Christians forget the vision and burden, the cross and resurrection of solidarity will this blood of multitudes be required. And yet we have seen it required in our own lifetimes. Why? Christians are not living loving solidarity. The blood of multitudes has be exacted as a price for the fault among Christians of the love that is solidarity. It is our fault. In this virtue is the mystery of the salvation of the human race, bound up in the Incarnation, the ultimate act of human solidarity. In it is the "suffering with" that God does for human beings. Solidarity does not oblige all Christians to suffer. It does oblige them all to suffer with. That is the Christian vocation. When will we begin to suffer with?
Each soul has its own cup to drink. The longer it delays the moment when it puts its lips to the cup, the longer it delays the moment when it will begin to love with a purer love. To plunge into pain and suffering is to plunge into life itself; pain and suffering represent the only purifying crucible that can make us saints. Suffering is not a last resort, an annoying complication that makes things more difficult than they would otherwise be; it is not an added burden. Suffering is itself the way.
Let us this week embark on this perfect way.