Image: The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix) by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890
Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
The Cross as Compassion
Friday, July 4, 2014
Each worldview has its own folly and its own form of wisdom, and Paul says the cross has challenged both and comes out with the best and most honest answer—precisely because it incorporates the tragic (theirrational, absurd, and sinful) and uses it for good purposes. The Christian perspective can absorb and appreciate paradox—which is order within disorder, redemption through tragedy, resurrection through death, divinity through humanity.
For Paul, therefore, thecross and its transformative power is his summary symbol for the depths of divine wisdom, which seems like mere “folly” to the “masters of every age” (1 Corinthians 2:6). The compassionate holding of essential meaninglessness or tragedy, as Jesus does on the cross, is the final and triumphant resolution of all the dualisms and dichotomies that we ourselves must face in our own lives. We are thus “saved by the cross”!
Paradox held and overcome is the beginning of training in non-dual thinking or contemplation, as opposed to paradox denied, which forces us to choose only one part of any mysterious truth. Such a choice will be false because we usually choose the one that serves our small purposes. Who would ever choose the cross? Yet life often demands it of us anyway. Would anyone will or wish their child to be born with a mental or physical disability? Yet how many such families rise to very high levels of love and compassion? Paul offers a new wisdom that challenges both “Jews and Greeks” (read: religious conservatives and secular liberals) in 1 Corinthians 1:22-25.
Conversion, therefore, is not joining a different group, but seeing with the eyes of the crucified. The cross is Paul’s philosopher’s stone or “codebreaker” for any lasting spiritual liberation. God can save sincere people of faith inside of any system or religion, if only they can be patient,trusting, and compassionate in the presence of human misery or failure,especially their own. This is life’s essential journey. These trustful ones have surrendered to Christ, very often without needing to use the precise word “Christ” at all (Matthew 7:21). It is the active doing and not the correct saying that matters.