My companions in morning prayer are icons of St. Stephen the Martyr, St. Antony of the Desert and a crucifix. This morning I was reflecting about the incompleteness of Stephen and Antony. One was an intemperate youth on fire with his new faith in Jesus but lacking in mature wisdom or practical judgment. The other grew into an old man who had spent a life time exorcising his own demons until, at last, he was able to offer wisdom that would guide centuries of Christian thinking. Each of them had important truths to offer, but only in part. Turning then to Jesus on the cross, it’s hard not to think of him as an older and almost ageless man. His was the wisdom of eternity embodied in a man normally deemed too young to have acquired the wisdom of the elders. Young persons are expected to be more like Stephen. Wise persons are expected to be more well aged like Antony. Stephen and Antony we can understand. They accurately represent parts of the reality of being human. Jesus? Not so easy to understand.
I think that is part of what John intended us to ponder when he wrote that, “He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him…[he was] full of grace and truth.” Or, as in the Letter to the Colossians, “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” Among the many reasons that he was, and always will be, crucified is that we are simply too discomfited by such a person. His mere presence among us was and is an unbearable indictment of our limitations and selfishness. The thing is, he won’t go away. He keeps getting resurrected. He keeps confronting us with both indictment and reconciliation, both truth and forgiveness. We can dismiss Stephen as an immature kid and Antony as a certified nut case, but Jesus defies all our attempts to dismiss him. I guess that’s why Paul said that once he thought of Jesus in human terms, but no longer.
I’m not sure where these thoughts will lead but suspect they will end up in my Good Friday meditation.