The Terrible Weakness of Our God

Sometime before the Christmas break, I had the pleasure of eating dinner with four Sisters of Life. In a very certain sense, these Sisters are an awful lot like crack cocaine: Any interaction with them, however brief, leaves me with a stupid smile, the belief that hey, maybe the world isn’t going to plunged into a fiery abyss after all, and a powerful feeling of happiness that lasts for the rest of the day. Their joy is as beautiful as it is infectious.

But I mention this only to mention something else, that our conversation centered around the idea of Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God. The baby lamb is meek and mild, yes, but far more important is this fact: The lamb is ready to die. Other animals struggle as they are being led to the slaughter, but the Sisters spoke of how the baby lamb offers the slaughterer its neck, how it nuzzles the hand of its killer. I watched a few videos of these lamb slaughterings, and they are remarkably heartbreaking affairs.

And yet, this is how God interacts with mankind. He kisses our hands and offers us his neck. He makes himself vulnerable to us. The idea of God that pervades our culture — God as a scary, old man and a monstrous rule-maker — becomes ridiculous when we realize that God came to us as a baby. He asks that we let him love us, and though I suppose that does take some amount of vulnerability on our part, he took the first step — he let us kill him. He exposed his flesh to our cruelty — we would do well to expose our hearts to his love. He was humiliated by our sins — it is no bad thing to be humbled in light of his greatness.

Truly, we should learn from the Lamb. His victory over the powers of sin and darkness did not come from his strength, but from his weakness, from his death on the cross. Is this not — in is own way — an example of the brilliance of our God? You cannot feel vindicated in murdering the man who offers you his life. There is no mean satisfaction in killing a baby lamb, not simply because of its beauty, but because of its compliance. If I were to truly offer my life to my enemies, what victory could they gain in taking it from me? They could no more enjoy a feeling of righteous vengeance than they could by taking a gift I wrapped for them. There is victory in weakness.

Look at the martyrs. It is a well known fact that if you detest a man for his ideas, the worst thing you can do is kill him, for you will only make those ideas immortal. Why? Because the martyr is the man who will lay down his life willingly for an idea. Thus to kill a man for his Christianity or his Atheism gives the man exactly what he wants — the ultimate affirmation of his idea, sealed in blood. Why did Rome convert to Christianity? The blood of the martyrs crucified, fed to lions and set ablaze in the arenas of Nero, the blood that sealed forever the immense worth of the idea of Christianity. The blood of lambs led to the slaughter. There is victory in weakness.

More than that, there is something immensely badass in weakness. When you’re watching a movie, and a man with a gun held to his head looks up at his assassin and says, “Go ahead. Do me the honor,” you know who the hero is.

But as Catholics, we know that the humility of our God is not limited to the past. If it was an immense humiliation for God to become Man, how much more humiliating must it be that God becomes bread? If it is weakness for the Divine to become walking, talking matter, how much weaker is it that he becomes inanimate substance? When Jesus Christ instituted the Eucharist saying “take and eat, for this is my Body,” he revealed the immensity of His plan. God became Man, and the God-man became food. The sacrifice of the cross is to be fulfilled for all of human history, on every altar, in every tabernacle.

The Catholic world was recently shocked and horrified by a bunch of YouTube videos blaspheming the Eucharist, in which the Body of Christ was nailed to a stick and flushed down a toilet. But in the midst of our anger over such offenses, let us not imagine that God is shocked. God is offended by such acts, beyond any doubt, but he is not surprised. He does not say, “How is this possible?” for He comes to us as bread, entirely vulnerable! This is Our God, the Lamb. We Catholics are given the opportunity to consume God, to take the fullness of the Divine into our bodies, to fill our temples with the Holy Spirit. But we are also given the opportunity to trample him underfoot.

This is what should make us tremble when we go up to receive Holy Communion. This is why we should reverence the Holy Eucharist with all our hearts and all our strength. The King of the Universe has come to us in the form of weakness, and by his weakness we are made strong. The Source of all Strength has become bread and wine for us, and the world is flipped onto its head. For the Great has become small, and now it is in smallness that we find our greatness.

  • Ironiccatholic

    Excellent post.

  • http://twitter.com/nugzthepirate Kendra Schroeder

    awesome Marc, you always give me such profound things to think about. I’m definitely sharing!

  • Jared Tomanek

    This hit the mark in lamb’s eye.

  • Mimo

    Great post! I’ve just found you through my sister. She highly recommended your blog and I must say she’s right. It’s an awesome blog! Keep up the good work

  • MaryLu Stefan

    Dear Marc,

    You have done me a great service in writing this:

    “Other animals struggle as they are led to slaughter, but… the baby lamb offers the slaughterer its neck, nuzzles the hand of its killer… lamb slaughterings are heartbreaking affairs.”

    I don’t think I will ever forget these words when I go to receive Jesus in Holy Communion from this day forward.

    Thank you for this gift.

  • http://evangelizela.com/ Ricky Jones

    Profound words. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1575150018 Andrew DeCelle

    Awesome post!!! This really helps put in perspective just how incredible the gift of the Eucharist really is, and how much we should center our faith lives around receiving Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Just wanted to let you know, I think you’re missing a ‘we’ in the first sentence of that last paragraph :D

    • Marc Barnes

      thank you!!

  • http://linenonthehedgerow.blogspot.com/ Richard Collins

    Definitely a great and inspirational post. Many thanks.

  • Catherine Seiwert

    Good post, but I question the wording of God becoming bread. He doesn’t actually become bread like He became man. The host does not retain the reality of being bread, only the appearances, whereas He was both fully God and fully man in Jesus. I understand your point, I would just be careful about the wording.

  • PC Geek

    You are not preaching pacifism though, are you?

    The Martyrs’ deaths were indeed heroic and did exactly what you claim above – they played an integral part in the conversion of Rome to the Faith…but where is the line drawn from going meekly, even cooperatively to your death, and simply laying down for the slaughter any time someone wants to kill you?

    Should victims of robbers lay down and die hoping it will convert the robber? I myself am certain that is not what Christianity teaches, but I want to see what your take is. Should Christians simply refuse to resist any form of persecution in any manner?

    Plus, you know someone is going to ask this at some point so mind as well ask it now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anna-Maria-Castillo/684443961 Anna Maria Castillo

    so beautifully written.

    “But as Catholics, we know that the humility of our God is not limited to the past. If it was an immense humiliation for God to become Man, how much more humiliating must it be that God becomes bread?”

    That really struck me. Thanks for this, it made my day!

  • http://www.theroad2emmaus.blogspot.com/ Jeremy

    I collapsed out of jealousy after reading the first sentence. Did any of those sisters of life happen to be Sr. Antoniana? She’ll probably be at the March for Life. My grade 1 catechism teacher :)

  • http://twitter.com/filiusdextris filius dextris

    Here’s a great quote by Tertullian (in case you haven’t seen it): “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

  • guest

    Hebrews 10:11-14 “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”

  • guest

    Revelation 1:14-18 “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edge sward. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

    Thank Christ for His sacrifice, but Let us never forget who Jesus is returning as.

    The Apostles Creed: The third day He arose again from the dead;

    He ascended into heaven,
    and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
    from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

  • Rlvankirk

    This is the greatest secret – now everyone knows!

  • Jastay3

    “It is a well known fact that if you detest a man for his ideas, the worst thing you can do is kill him, for you will only make those ideas immortal. ”

    Met any Manicheans lately? Mithrists? How about Cathars?

  • Tina

    Beautiful.

  • nishamarythomas

    I… am in absolute awe of you and my Great God. I cannot fully explain or convey to you anything of what is going on in me right now… But let me let you that….

    • nishamarythomas

      that I am pretty sure my heart is still racing a mile a minute after reading this, and I am reeling, from the intensity of what your words have provoked in me. It’s not the first time I’ve contemplated the weakness of our God, and it’s not the first time it has moved me. But never has it been like THIS. This trembling out of awe instead of trembling with love is frightening, in a good way, and it feels as if my own world ought to be flipped onto its head, spun around a few times, and stop. Just stop.
      And on top of it all, I just realised today that you’re 18, just like me. I found your blog close to two weeks ago, about when you wrote your reaction post to “Why I love Jesus, But…”, and have been gorging on your long-starved-for, potent and possibly addicting mix of deep-rooted, firm, true and alive Catholic faith, love of Tradition, knowledge and the Church, refreshingly honest, clear, intelligent, faith-filled, new and level-headed views of both the Church and the world and its problems, and hilarious, witty, relateable and unique writing style.[If that isn't a run-on sentence, I don't know what is..] To say that I have been searching for years for someone my age as in depth and in love with the Catholic faith as you, to emulate, learn from or affirm that I’m not the only one my age that’s kinda insane in this particularly wonderful and fearful way, would be an understatement. It puts everything into perspective.
      And it makes the beauty in this post, the fire that you’ve magnificently transferred and lit in my heart through your gorgeous writing, at the point when I need fire the most, all the more special and stronger. Thank you, and I’ll keep following this perfect blog (the LOTR references are a great bonus)


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