Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Lord: Chapter 36, “The Road to Jerusalem”

Dear friend,

As Jesus makes his final approach to Jerusalem, Romano Guardini tackles one of the thorniest issues for anyone of faith, a “hopelessly entangled mystery”:

“Does God know that it will end with the death of the Messiah? Certainly, from all eternity. And still it should not happen. Does he desire Jesus’s death? Certainly, from all eternity. If the people close their hearts his love must take this road. Still, they should not close their hearts. It is obvious that with our human intelleigence we shall never comprehend. God’s eternal omniscience and our freedom of choice; that which should not be, but is; form which the act of salvation is supposed to take, and that which it actually does;—all this remains for us a hopelessly entangled mystery.”

The easiest road to our own Jerusalem—the rejection of God, for it was we, we humans who rejected God in Jerusalem two thousand years ago—is to say, If God were omniscient, such things should never happen. Such things as Christ’s execution, such things as rape, abortion, or the Holocaust—choose your scale. The Christian says God is omniscient, all-powerful—and these things do happen. Because of our freedom, the freedom He gives us.

I think that in 1969 and 1970, the years of Woodstock and Kent State respectively, our entire generation was poised between freedom and necessity. Not that we were aware of it. Not that we allowed ourselves to experience this terrible tension between apparent opposites. Most—OK, many—of us were too drugged out on cheap grass and hash, or scary chemicals, to have to face it.

But there was our freedom, of course, the freedom of “Hair,” about which I wrote yesterday: peace, love, freedom, happiness—a cheaply bought freedom. We craved it. Then there was necessity: the draft, for one thing. My draft lottery number was 3 (three), and why I did not serve in Vietnam with that top-ten draw is a story too long for this post. Like you, like our friends, I was pinned between a limitless freedom, dancing in the streets night and day, and a hard future pressing in.

This is nothing like what Christ felt or experienced, though we hippies in “Hair” may have dressed like Him. Ours was a dime novel beside the Greatest Story Ever Told. Still, the mystery of freedom and necessity remains: opposites that God holds in the palm of his loving hand.

“One is Christian,” Guardini writes, “in the degree that one is open to these mysteries, that one accepts them in faith through the word of God, thus ‘understanding,’ willing, living them.”

Be well, my dear old friend,

This series of posts continues here with chapter 37.

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