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Even after 2,000 years of Christianity, the cross is a scandal. Good Friday annually confronts us with the message St. Paul says "is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1.18). In many nations today, violence is a lived reality. War, terrorism, marginalization in poverty or homelessness, or simple abandonment by loved ones are defining characteristics of the lives of tens of millions of people.
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Government's most fundamental responsibility is that of protecting the common good. Part of that responsibility – in the Canadian system, it is a federal responsibility – is that of protecting the public order, including punishing the perpetrators of major crimes. Punishment serves three purposes. First and most important, it attempts to redress the disorder caused by the offence. The traditional term for such redress is retribution, widely misinterpreted as meaning revenge.
It is fitting that Jean Vanier's doctoral dissertation focused on Happiness as the Principle and End of Aristotelian Ethics. (See story, Page 5.) One can only wonder what he thinks of that topic now that he has spent 50 years happily living with mentally handicapped people. Happiness is the goal of human living, but how does one find it? For Aristotle, it is through a life of virtue.
In all my years of watching distortions and propaganda in the general news media, I have never seen anything to equal the duplicity of the Iran coverage. Israel and right-wing politicians in the U.S., opposing any deal between the Security Council's permanent members (plus Germany) and Iran to ensure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon, are undermining the prospects for peace in the Middle East, but they don't seem to care.
The biblical accounts of Jesus' passion and death focus very much on his trial, describing it in length and in detail. There is a huge irony in how it is described. Jesus is on trial, but the story is written in such a way that, in effect, everyone is on trial, except Jesus. The Jewish authorities who orchestrated his arrest are on trial for their jealousy and dishonesty. The Roman authorities who wield the final power are on trial for their religious blindness.
Silence. That is one powerful word. When there is not a vestige of a sound, brain cells dance the synapse of thoughts, whirling through one's mind, opening secret doors, letting answers and truth fly out. Sometimes it can be joyful. Sometimes one staggers with pain. Silence is hard to come by in this clattering world. But oh is it precious.
Today in Alberta we find ourselves often talking about government budgets. Because of low oil prices, government revenues are down. Alberta relies heavily on ever-changing revenues from the sale of fossil fuels to balance its budget, between 15 and 40 per cent of total government revenues depending on the year. Of course, world oil and gas prices over the years rise and fall dramatically. When gas and oil prices are high, Alberta has budget surpluses.
The appearance of Mary, Jesus' mother, and the beloved disciple at the foot of the cross presents a scene perplexing to Scripture scholars. How did they get there? The three synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – make no mention of Mary in Jerusalem, let alone at the cross. The synoptics do say women were present at the crucifixion, but only at a distance and only after Jesus' death. As for the beloved disciple, the other Gospel accounts say the disciples had fled Jerusalem prior to the crucifixion.
We all know the story. We hear it every year during Holy Week, twice. Jesus eats supper with his disciples, is betrayed, captured, falsely accused, wrongfully sentenced, brutally tortured, cruelly mocked and then is murdered on the cross. As with all stories we hear over and over, we can become too familiar with it. We can forget the scandal it is. The utter and complete failure it demonstrates. Jesus' mission was to help people hear and understand the Good News while he was on earth. But no one "got it." Not the people who followed him to hear him speak, not the lepers he cured, nor the lame people who walked, not even the 12 apostles, who spent day and night with him.
When our children were little, we continued an Easter morning tradition that was part of my childhood. Somewhere in the house the children would find the beginning of a trail of small Easter candies, and they would gather together and begin to follow the path. There were all kinds of rules: they couldn't run on ahead to see where the trail ended, they had to follow the trail, one candy at a time, picking them up one by one in turn, oldest to youngest, or youngest to oldest. The ones who were more capable would help those who needed direction, patiently helping them to gather their candy in turn, slowly moving along the path until all the candies were gathered.
I was surprised recently to read a brief article that indicated we celebrate the wrong place for Jesus' birth as we read it in the Gospels with angels announcing his birth to the shepherds.