Reflection for Saturday, March 23, 2002: 5th week in Lent.
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In these readings, Ezekiel and Jeremiah prophesy that God guarantees peace and plenty for Israel, and John speaks of the beginning of a plot to put Jesus to death.||This news from the Bible is obviously a mix of the good and the bad. Other sources of news these days -- television, radio, newspapers -- are stressing the bad. Killing and suffering in the Holy Land in the year 2002 are more prevalent than at any other time in recent memory. And from Afghanistan, Africa, Houston, and from within the Church itself we witness wrongdoing, hurt, and cause to cry out against the pain in human lives.|I did some reflecting on these passages at St. Cecilia's Cathedral in Omaha, my parish for 18 years. Above the altar and beneath an immaculate white marble baldachin, there hangs a very large crucifix. The corpus is gilded, and it is the first thing one notices when entering the church from perhaps two hundred feet away. Some notice immediately that there is something different about this beautiful crucifix, and that something is not its size or magnificence. I had to have this special thing pointed out to me: while on most crucifixes, Christ's head is bowed downward, as in weakness, anguish, or even death, here at St. Cecilia's the sacred head is turned upward, as though Jesus is directly confronting His father.|I went home from the cathedral and checked the crucifixes in my front hall and bedroom. Christ's head was bowed forward or to the side. From my bookshelf I took a book on art history, and again, in each of the medieval and renaissance paintings reproduced, the head faced downward, and often the eyes were closed.|I did some more reflecting on these passages from Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and John, this time with a image on the cross at our Omaha cathedral on my mind. The Old Testament prophecies of good things for his chosen people in Israel seem so much contradicted by the headlines in today's media, and the plotting against Jesus, just another tragic example of the violence our world suffers every day. And yet that unique crucifix tells us that we have a Savior who in the hour of most horrible pain turned to his Father. It was not unnatural that He should ask a question of near-despair: "Why?" But that He asked meant that He had both faith and hope. Looking upward, he maintained contact with God the Father, and I think that Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and John in today's readings are telling us that we, too, must continue to look upward -- upward and forward, in good times and bad, because God's plan includes both a Lent and an Easter. This is our faith; this is our hope.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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