Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

The Friendship of Christ: Christ our Friend Vindicated (Easter Day)

 I thought I was going to write this last post on Friendship of Christ a few weeks ago, before members of our reading club begged a grace period to allow them to catch up. I'm glad I didn't try to compose anything then; I must have been reading in a dry period, and somehow the chapter didn't resonate with me, reminding me instead of the more dated elements of Benson's fiction. In preparation for an Easter post, I sat down with the book again, and this time I was in a more receptive frame of mind, and the chapter was much more alive for me -- like Christ on this Easter day!

Benson begins by laying out the pageantry that leads up to the Triduum: a vast panorama in which each character takes his or her part in what Hans Urs von Balthasar termed the "theo-drama". Not every character chooses wisely, although God takes every choice and turns it to the accomplishment of his will. One translation of John 19:1 that has always seemed apt to me is, "Pilate's next move was to take Jesus and have him scourged." What a perfect encapsulation of the desperate worldly calculation Pilate makes to salvage a situation quickly going downhill -- doing something awful he doesn't want to do, and doesn't believe is warranted, to mollify the crowd. And the crowd will not be mollified, and Pilate orders the death of an innocent man to buy peace. 

But we are not talking about the sordid human motivations in the Passion, Benson says. "From the Divine side the story is one of triumph; from the human side one of failure..." It does not matter if our human plans fail. We are not failures in God's eyes if our human plans fail. Our model, and our focus in this chapter, should be Mary Magdalene, who despite her sufferings and failures on earth, exemplified both halves of the Greatest Commandment: she "loved much" (You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind), and she "did what she could" (You shall love your neighbor as yourself).

This is a book on friendship with Christ, and so Benson draws out the ways that Mary related to Jesus -- ways in which he seemed to fail her through by his death.

1. He was her Absolver, and then he became sin itself.

2. He was her Savior, but he could not save himself.

3. He was her Friend, and he abandoned her, not only by his death, but by vanishing after his death so she could not even mourn him in peace.

Everything was taken away from Mary. By earthly standards, she was completely barren, with nothing to show for her love. But "no soul can weep that has not still some capacity for joy." (Or, to borrow the one good line from WandaVision: "What is grief but love persevering?") Mary's earthly friendship with Jesus was only a faint copy of the true model. Her friendship with Christ will be transformed by his Vindication, just as our earthly friendships -- even with Jesus himself --will finally be conformed to the reality of Heaven. 


"We have considered throughout Jesus Christ as our Friend," says Benson, in his final summation. "Let us on this day of His Vindication once more remind ourselves of a little of what this means."

Where are you finding Jesus right now? Where are you not finding him? In his presence in your soul? In the sacraments, especially the Eucharist? In the Church? In the saints? In his mother? In sinners? In ordinary people? In the suffering? 

Where in creation is Christ visible to you? Where is he hidden from you? Where do you wish he would reveal himself? Where don't you want to find him? 

So, then, He asserts His domination from strength to strength; claiming one by one those powers that we had thought to be most our own. To our knowledge He is the Most Perfect; to our imagination He is our dream; to our hopes their Reward.

Until at last, following His grace towards glory, we pass to be utterly His. No thought is ours unsanctioned by the Divine Wisdom; no love is ours save that of the Sacred Heart; no will save his.


Thank you, dear friends, for reading along with me, and may the joy of our risen Friend fill your hearts to overflowing.

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