Even on the cross, with the world wanting Him dead, Christ is still the true power. CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

Mary Marrocco: We must surrender to the one true power

  • April 1, 2021

A woman I knew became Christian as an adult. Unlike some of us lifelong Christians who can be oblivious of the strangeness of our faith, she was appalled by one of the Beatitudes. 

“Blessed are the meek!?” she cried. “There is nothing good about meekness.  Meek people get overrun and destroyed. Blessed are the strong and powerful, that’s what I’ve learned in life.”

She did take up the challenge of learning the blessing of meekness. But her questioning spirit also issued a challenge: Does being Christian mean being helpless, powerless and weak?  Doesn’t it also mean learning how to use power well, so as to build up and not to destroy? 

Is such a thing even possible? As Peter Parker learned the hard way, with great power comes great responsibility, and humans are not good at either.

In the life of Jesus, it seems clear that the authorities, both secular and religious, thought He threatened their power, and therefore determined to take power over Him. When Jesus was a child, Matthew’s Gospel tells us, wily King Herod heard rumours of an infant-king, smelled a potential threat to his power and ruthlessly moved against that threat, as such a man would know well how to do.

As an adult, Jesus caused similar alarm in religious authorities who observed His influence over people, including His power to change the hearts and mind of a group. They saw power according to their own lights, as power over another that keeps one in control. How could they understand that Jesus’ power was of a different sort? How could they comprehend the healing power (dynamis) that the woman with the hemorrhage recognized, touched and brought out from Him (Luke 8:46)?

How could they, how can we, come to see that Jesus’ power was not against them — or us — as divine power is never against humanity, but only and always for the life of the world?

The will to control and destroy is what we call power. We see it rampant in the Passion narrative, huge and terrible; the power of division, rage, hatred, cruelty. On Good Friday, we see them unleashed against God, as “the crowds” — ordinary people, secular and religious authorities — use all their power and fury to kick Him off the planet. 

What could it be like, that ultimate aloneness of Jesus on Good Friday? What could it be like, knowing the only thing the world asks of you is to leave the planet, and all the world can say about you is it needs you dead? What is like to be that one?

Author Sr. Helen Préjean gave us a taste of this terrible place as she accompanied the “dead man walking.” In her book of that title, she stood with a man condemned to death, who heard from the world, till it echoed deeply in his soul, that the only useful thing he could do for it was to die and leave forever. He stood in that place because he had no choice; she stood in that place because she chose not to abandon him.

Here again we glimpse power of a different sort, not power to control and dominate, nor even power to maintain law and order, but the power to heal, to save. 

On Good Friday, power appears to reside with Pilate who judges and sentences Jesus; with the soldiers who crucify Him and the guards who watch over the tomb; with the tomb itself which carries the ultimate power that equalizes all people. What could be more powerful than death? Science? Religion? The Internet? Money? Hell?

None of these, the Gospels tell us. Something else.

On Good Friday, Jesus, the life of the world, is the one the world wants to kill. And the combined powers of hell and Earth can’t succeed in destroying Him, because He refuses to cease to be Himself.  He never ceases to love, to forgive, to use His power for the good of the other, in obedience to His Father.

There is only one true power, the same energy that brought the universe into being and came out of the tomb.

Can we surrender, finally, to this power?

For this, we must go beyond the chaos and power of Good Friday to the silence and gentleness of the Garden. We must, like the woman who discovered the Beatitudes, like the women going out before dawn on the third day, continue our search. Like Mary of Magdala, we can discover it once we face our poverty, broken and moved only by love.

There in the Garden, through her anguish and powerlessness, Mary beholds Jesus standing, stitching Earth and Heaven together. The crowds are not there. The authorities are not there.  Science is not there. Religion is not there. Only the forlorn grieving woman, who never gave up searching for her beloved, is there.

(Marrocco can be reached at marrocco7@sympatico.ca)

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