Our Sinfulness and Our Goodness

I remember being told, as a grade-schooler, that our sins contributed directly to the anguish of Jesus on the Cross.

So-called wiser minds came along and told me otherwise.  Surely, such an attitude did little credit to God and just made us feel like sludge.

Well, in a way, both judgments are correct.  We are not sludge.  And God is not a tyrant.

No, we are priceless.  And God is a "tremendous lover."

And yet, there is a way in which our own sinful infidelities add to the anguished suffering of Christ who is in and beyond all time.  We do this, I believe, by denying the two great arms of the crucifixion.

When you think of the meaning of God's love for us in Jesus Christ, there come to mind two radical rejections of that love which must indeed cause suffering to the crucified Christ.

You see, God so loved us, even in our sinful poverty, as to become one with our own sinful condition, to die with us, like us and for us.  That's how valuable we humans are.  That's how needy we are.

And the two screaming rejections of such love are these:

"No, I am not worth your death.  I was not worth your life and love.  I am not worth your efforts, your forgiveness, your suffering, your passion."  This is the response we give when we are so overcome by our own sin that we think it is greater than God's creation, more lasting than God's love, and more compelling than God's beauty.

The second response is even more tragic:

"Thanks, but no thanks.  You see, I did not need your love.  I do not need your suffering and your bleeding heart.  I do not want your forgiveness and your redeeming labors.  For I am a 'self-made' person.  I did it on my own.  I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps.  The others may need your death, your love, but not me."

And so the two arms of the cross are cut off by the hardened human attitudes that we were either not worth Christ's life, death, and resurrection, or that we really had no need of him.

The Friday of Christ's death was not "Guilty Friday" or "Gruesome Friday."  It was a Friday of Goodness: the Goodness of God and the goodness of us all.  We can only add to the suffering of God by denying our sinfulness as well as our goodness.  There is no one of us so virtuous who does not need--desperately--God's loving forgiveness.

And there is no one among us so sinful who is not worth--endlessly--such a lavish gift.

If we know these truths, we will never die.

And we need never fear.

Kavanaugh, John F. Faces of Poverty (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991) p.144-145.