21 March 2008

Good Friday: The Sin of Indifference

When one contemplates the Crucifixion, one would be remiss not to contemplate the opportunities to have prevented it.

At his trial before Caiaphas and some part of the Sanhedrin, nobody spoke in defense of Jesus. Nobody said, "If he is a heretic, then so am I. You will have to take me with him." When given the cruel choice of which of the condemned should be freed, the supporters of Barabbas shouted, but the New Testament records no shouts for Jesus. And it probably took at most three Roman soldiers to nail Jesus to the cross and raise it up. Supposedly a crowd watched this, yet nobody is recorded to have raised a hand against this small force.

It didn't take much force at all to crucify Jesus, or any of the thousands that the Romans crucified during their history. That's because it was enabled by the cowardice of the few and the indifference of the many who might have acted, or at least spoken up.

We've seen it again. The Nazis slaughtered six million Jews and millions of others, including Roma (Gypsies), Poles, Jehovah' Witnesses, and homosexuals. It took relatively few Nazis to do the actual killing, or to run the extermination camps. That's because it was enabled by what was effectively the cowardice or indifference of everyone who might have done something about it, but did not.

But many times, the alternative to cowardice and indifference amounts to suicide. We become hostage to our natural desire to live just one more day, to see if we can live until the horror passes. Can any of us who are thus normal honestly claim that we are good?

Ah, but sin is an insidious thing, and if we free ourselves from one sin, we often substitute another in its place. Those who free themselves from their natural desire to live — they become suicide bombers, prey to the Islamofacist Industrial Complex that makes the explosives, the vests, the triggers, that gives the instructions, that points to the targets, most of whom are non-combatants.

Yes, there are occasional saints, moved by the Spirit, who desire to live, who desire not to kill, and yet have the courage to speak and act. But odds are, dear reader, that you and I are not among them.

You and I are more likely to be among the indifferent crowd, who just want to pursue their lives as best they can. Can anyone say, "Darfur," or "Lhasa" (to name the two the media mentions of God knows how many current conflicts there are)? You and I are more likely to be among those watching while the nails are driven in, while the sky darkens, while the last breath is gasped.

And that is why, when Jesus gasped, "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do," he was pleading for us as well.

It is now sundown. The Vigil of Easter has begun. Peace and mercy be upon you.

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