The readings during the Christmas season are such juxtaposition of the “wonderful” and the “terrible.” We know about the birth of the Christ Child, the visit of the Magi, the witness of the shepherds, and yet we also hear the story of the flight into Egypt, Herod and the death of the Holy Innocents and the stoning of St. Stephen.
The stoning of Stephen was a horrifically brutal. His family and friends and the other followers of “The Way” must have wondered how could such a cruel act be done in the name of religion. Where was the God of justice and of mercy in their lives at that time? We recall images seen in front of our own eyes today. Think about the tragedies from the Boston Marathon, Sandy Hook and 9/11. Is it any wonder that people don’t want anything to do with God and say, “How can an all loving God allow such pain to happen?”
People have wrestled with their faith for centuries. They asked questions… about their society, their faith, their religious leaders, their God. What kind of answer did they receive? And so we move to Psalm 31 –
Lord, YOU be my rock of refuge, Lord, YOU be a stronghold to give me safety, Lord, YOU be my fortress,
For YOUR NAME’S sake, lead me and guide me. Jesus Christ, light shining from his face, let your face shine upon your servant. Save me in your kindness. (and sensing further and imminent danger) Hide me in the shelter of your presence from the plottings of men. And yet the emotions are still raw, the fear all to close and real. Where do we go with this “‘stuff?” What is the plan? What is the solution? Where is the checklist?
So we come to the Gospel and see…there IS NO PLAN! There is nothing that man (or woman) can do to explain or address such evil. There is not plan – there is only a person. Who came down and – right from the start – experienced tragedy and pain and suffering first hand. God dove right into the middle of the darkness of human life in order to bless it, and redeem it. He doesn’t necessarily offer pat answers or simple solutions. He does offer a relationship.
“I am the bread of life.”
To which we respond… “Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.”
…and let Him do the rest.