What Will Pass for Mercy

By Brian Volck

2986260634_9a443c432e_m“Do not say God is just. Justice has not been evident in God’s dealings with you.”
—Isaac of Syria

Among the habits I’ve lately tried living without are reading online comment boxes (Good Letters being an exception) and making predictions. I bypass comments because I encounter enough wrath, ridicule, and unreason without wallowing in still more online. As for prophecy, my ability to predict the future isn’t what it used to be.

Parents routinely ask me, a pediatrician, what’s in store for their children. I offer probabilities and guesses. Harder still to predict “the fate of the nation.” I don’t know where the United States, with an armada of oncoming problems and a conspicuous dearth of creative proposals in response, is heading.

Maybe it’s just a passing foul mood, a temporary crisis of confidence, but decline—perhaps precipitous—in America’s global economic and political influence seems likely. Who knows what shape that may take? [Read more...]

Make It Old: A Wedding Anniversary Epithalamion

2900827625_79888750bf_mIn the beginning was a wedding. The ceremony began with light. The ceremony included the separation of water from water, and it included the formation of land followed by the breaking apart of continents. The sound was terrible, and it was heard beyond the sky and in the perfect garden, the expensive venue chosen for the wedding ceremony and reception.

The ceremony began before there was a brain, a human brain, before there were two human brains, even before there was a serpent brain. But there was an alphabet, and there was intelligence, and intelligence arranged the letters to form a world. [Read more...]

Saving the World: A Reflection on Germanwings Flight 9525

A couple of weeks ago, a German man decided to kill himself. There are thousands of such occurrences every day, except this time the man was a pilot, and in the process of his self-destruction, he also killed everyone on the plane along with him. Nobody seems to know why—he was depressed, disillusioned, etc.—but not to the degree that anyone thought him capable of such an act.

The black box of the smoldering wreck reveals the co-pilot’s pounding on the bolted cockpit door, and the screams of the 149 lives soon to be obliterated in a firebomb amongst the French Alps. Who knows what was racing through the mind of the man who had doomed the innocent along with himself. Was he lost to all sense, or was he impossibly indifferent? G.K. Chesterton considered the suicide a type of mass murderer: “The man who kills himself kills all men. As far as he is concerned, he wipes out the world.” [Read more...]

It Is Finished: Christ’s Words from the Cross

When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

Sandro_Botticelli_016

It is finished. Of all Christ’s words from the cross, these move me most deeply. The words strike me as cryptic, charged with meaning. They trigger many questions in my mind. Jesus, what is finished? What exactly do you mean? What are you thinking as you speak?

[Read more...]

The Kiss of Judas

Giotto_KissOfJudasWhen Judas approached Jesus in the Garden and kissed him, how do you think Jesus responded? Oh, we know what the gospel says:

While Jesus was still speaking, Judas…arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.’ At once he came up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you are here to do.’ (Matthew 26:47-50

So Jesus responds by calling Judas “Friend.” (In every Bible translation I’ve seen, Jesus calls Judas “Friend” here.)

[Read more...]


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