This week’s epistle reading, from Acts 13, tell us of the residents of Jerusalem: though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. How familiar does this sound? How often, at work, in the neighborhood, in our families, do we identify a scapegoat, and proceed to sacrifice said unfortunate person? If confronted with reasons why such exclusion may not be such a good idea, we close our ears and reach for the knife.
The philosopher Rene Girard has written extensively about the scapegoating mechanism, and how we use it to create cohesive groups, societies, and cultures. We define outselves by who we throw out. (If you don’t know Girard’s work, see Michael Kirwan, Discovering Girard, or Gil Baillie, Violence Unveiled – or just pick up one of G’s books, such as Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World.) With Jesus, we have taken the very presence of the Divine, scapegoated and killed it.
But isn’t this always the case? Each human brother or sister, however troubled, however caught in evil, is the living image of God. Is there ever really a cause of death in such a one? Nonetheless, we point the finger and demand a crucifixion. The Cross of Good Friday shows us what we do every day, writ on a cosmic scale. Yet, Jesus does not respond in kind, and cracks open the cycle of destruction. To the extent that we can see the mystery, and can give up our desire to sacrifice others, redemption begins to move in us.
Easter shows us that, however hard we hammer at the nails, God will not let the Holy One …see corruption. As the young man says in the gospel, Christ is not held within the tomb: He is risen, he is not here… he goeth before you. In the painful moments of life, as we madly spill the blood of our sisters and brothers, we can trust in God who sees the Holy One, the Logos, living in each of us, always carrying us into new life far beyond the corruption we inflict upon one another.