Sunday morning I read the headlines of the thousands (20,000 or more now) dead from the Asian earthquake. Katrina’s devastation flashed in my mind, and the hundreds also who died in the flood in Guatemala. Then a few minutes later I read this striking thought from John of the Cross:
When anything disagreeable happens to you, remember Christ crucified and be silent.
Much more than disagreeable is the news of the terrible earthquake, especially in Paskistani Kashmir. 250 girls crushed in one school. My God, where are you?
That is the cry from the cross, the cry of dereliction, and surely a cry heard by God the Father who comprehends the anguished weeping of the mothers of Pakistan.
When evil, terrible evil, natural or otherwise falls, there are it seems to me three things we can say about the nature of evil and God
that evil is not real but an illusion (the Christian Science belief, and perhaps of some Buddhists)
or, that God is not loving and does not care
or, that God is loving but not powerful enough to confront and overcome evil
And here is where the cross is central to the mystery. For the cross says
Evil is real. Look at the cross and see what evil did to good incarnate. I learned this week that a friend of ours had wanted to commit suicide when she first read the life of Christ and learned they killed “that true and good man” she had always looked for. (Thankfully she knelt and asked Christ into her life instead!)
God is loving. Look at the cross, see the gift of God’s love in his Son. The great Scottish theologian James Denney said: I want to walk through the marketplaces and point to a cross and shout: Look! God loves like that!
God is powerful. Look at the cross and realize that God took the worst ever done to or by humans, and turned it into the best thing: redemption itself. Evil is real but it does not have the last word. The last word is from the cross: It is finished. Not only Jesus’ life was finished, but the reign of death and sin and evil.
When our Sandy died someone sent us a sermon by an old Puritan with the quaint title: The Mute Christian Under the Rod. The basic counsel: when bad things happen, do not be in a hurry to talk about the meaning, or to listen to those who have quick answers. Rather be silent … as John of the Cross said “Remember Christ crucified and be silent.”
Yet while we are silent, we can still listen: to the anguish in our hearts, to the cries of the broken, to the voice from the Cross, to the voice of God calling us to walk with the suffering as he does.