Friday in the Octave of Easter

Lectionary: 265

He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 
There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.




From Samuel Becket's Waiting for Godot, Act 1:

VLADIMIR:
It'll pass the time. (Pause.) Two thieves, crucified at the same time as our Saviour. One—
ESTRAGON:
Our what?
VLADIMIR:
Our Saviour. Two thieves. One is supposed to have been saved and the other . . . (he searches for the contrary of saved) . . . damned.
ESTRAGON:
Saved from what?
VLADIMIR:
Hell.
ESTRAGON:
I'm going.
He does not move.
VLADIMIR:
And yet . . . (pause) . . . how is it –this is not boring you I hope– how is it that of the four Evangelists only one speaks of a thief being saved. The four of them were there –or thereabouts– and only one speaks of a thief being saved. (Pause.) Come on, Gogo, return the ball, can't you, once in a way?
ESTRAGON:
(with exaggerated enthusiasm). I find this really most extraordinarily interesting.
VLADIMIR:
One out of four. Of the other three, two don't mention any thieves at all and the third says that both of them abused him.
ESTRAGON:
Who?
VLADIMIR:
What?
ESTRAGON:
What's all this about? Abused who?
VLADIMIR:
The Saviour.
ESTRAGON:
Why?
VLADIMIR:
Because he wouldn't save them.
ESTRAGON:
From hell?
VLADIMIR:
Imbecile! From death.
ESTRAGON:
I thought you said hell.
VLADIMIR:
From death, from death.
ESTRAGON:
Well what of it?


I was a high school student at Mount Saint Francis when I went with my class to a matinee presentation of Waiting for Godot at the Actor's Theater In Louisville. Father Carol Downs had prepared us for the Theater of the Absurd but the endless, aimless conversation of Didi and Gogo wasn't all that absurd to us. 

We already knew in our adolescent wisdom that "The Savior" was virtually unknown; that no one of our acquaintance was afraid of going to hell; and that the Bible is full of irrelevant contradictions. In the wake of World War II, as we waited for an atomic bomb to incinerate our universe, why would anyone ask whether Jesus was taunted by one or both thieves? 

As I visit Veterans in the hospital today, I find the same incomprehension: "saved from what?" 

And yet here we are facing a disintegration of a second pillar of our democracy, the presidency. Members of our own families are dying of addictions to tobacco, alcohol and opiates. Marriage as an indissoluble covenant between man and woman has virtually disappeared, and our winters are warming as our summers become unbearable. 

But even to suggest that we need a "Savior" is to invite Gogo's question, "Saved from what? and Didi's equally uncomprehending answers, "Hell" and "Death." 

How do we announce to today's Pharisee's the good news that God has raised up this Jesus whom you crucified? 

The only answer to that is a lived response. I don't think there is anything we can say. 

Abraham Joseph Heschl addressed this problem in his philosophy of religion, Man is not alone
Not the individual man nor a single generation by its own power can erect the bridge that leads to God. Faith is the achievement of ages, an effort accumulated over centuries. Many of its ideas are as the light of a star that left its source centuries ago. Many songs, unfathomable today, are the resonance of voices of bygone times. There is a collective memory of God in the human spirit, and it is this memory of which we partake in our faith.
If we live each day as if we belong to this Church whose most ancient memories are prehistoric, others might ask the reason for your hope. Saint Peter advises us in his first letter: 
Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear...  (I Peter 3:15)

Perhaps they will want to invest their lives in this "achievement of ages, an effort accumulated over centuries."  

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.