When Holy Week rolled around last year, I found myself sick in bed and was unable to attend Mass on Holy Thursday (to say that I was sad would be a bit of an understatement). My husband took our then-baby with him to church so I could rest. I'm sure that some people would have seized this type of opportunity for deep prayer and contemplation as they prayed with the Passion narrative in the Scriptures.
I originally didn't think much of my little statement, but as the days and weeks rolled by, I began contemplating these words more. Jesus died for hippies. Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the World, underwent a passion and agony so intense that He sweat blood. And for whom did He suffer? Hippies-some of whom were deliberately trying to dismantle marriage and the family through "marriages" between more than two people, some of whom were disregarding (or ignorant of) the sanctity of sex by choosing a "free love" lifestyle, some of whom were spreading spiritual ideas that rejected God's plan of salvation. Jesus died for these people.
Not only that, but Jesus suffered and died for you and me. I can't speak for the rest of y'all, but I for one have done some horribly sinful and downright terrible things in my life. By choosing to participate in sinful actions, I've turned my eyes from God's gaze. But He still gazes at me with love and mercy. And He gazes at you with love and mercy, too. Jesus died for me. He died for you. He died for hippies.
When we recognize this beautiful reality and think about the depths of God's mercy, we are forced to acknowledge that He died for the politicians we utterly dislike. He died for that teacher or classmate or coworker who drives us bonkers. He died for all those people who reject and mock Him. He died for child abusers, sex offenders, human traffickers, and drug lords. As we begin to think about the intense and passionate love that Jesus has for all people, we can start to realize their humanity. It's easy to stick a label on someone and make that image the essence of his or her identity. We hear about a "human trafficker" and can paint such a horrendous picture with this phrase that we think of this person only as someone in the business of trafficking; we forget that this man or woman is a child of God.
In Graham Greene's beautiful novel, The Power and the Glory, the "whisky priest" reflects on this profound reality:
"But at the centre of his own faith there always stood the convincing mystery-that we were made in God's image. God was the parent, but He was also the policeman, the criminal, the priest, the maniac, and the judge."The "whisky priest," a man who spent his regret-filled days running from the police, still recognized that each and every person-including the policemen who were seeking to kill him-was made in God's image. Can we bring ourselves to accept the humanity of those who have harmed us? As Lent soon comes to a close, I think this is a powerful reality to ponder. After all, if Jesus so mercifully and lovingly died for those men and women who have caused us so much pain, how then should we treat them?