Jesus The Black Hole

I just got back from teaching catechism at my parish. The theme was the Resurrection, but in order to talk about the Resurrection and be able to say anything, you have to talk about the Crucifixion and the nature of Christ.

“Why did Jesus go to the Cross?”

Most of them had heard that Jesus went to the Cross to save us from our sins.

“Okay, but how does Jesus going to the Cross save us from our sins? What’s that got to do with anything?”

That stumped them.

And then one of the kids blurted out: “Maybe Jesus’ death was like a black hole, and it just sucked away all the sin?”

I don’t know about y’all, but I think this is about as good as any of us could put it.

I couldn’t resist, so I also gave them the Poisonous Eucharist story. “Ew! Gross!” They thought the name “Chrysostom” was very funny.

So there you have it: from the mouths of babes…

 

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  • montanajack1948

    I see plenty of sin still in evidence, and that’s just looking at my own life. Do you mean that Jesus’ death “sucked away” the consequences of sin? In which case, can I now sin with impunity? If not, and if sin still remains, and if there are still consequences to my sins, then how did Jesus’ death change anything (so far, that is, as sin is concerned)? These, by the way, are not rhetorical questions; I’m quite serious.

    • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      This is a very good and complicated question, I’m going to try to do it as much justice as I can.

      What I would say is that what we mean when we say Jesus destroyed death and sin, we mean he destroyed our bondage to death and sin, so that we can be reconciled to God, and receive eternal life, and receive the Holy Spirit so that we have our sins forgiven and lead lives of righteousness thanks to God’s grace. Now, faithful Christians can truly say “O Death, where is thy sting? O Death, where is thy victory?” as countless martyrs have done. Death and sin may /look/ undefeated, but through the eyes of faith we can see that they are really illusions, and that the true reality is the Resurrection of Christ Jesus.

      One theme which is absolutely prevalent in Paul’s letters and which I rarely see emphasized in either Catholic or non-Catholic treatments is the idea that the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ are the beginning of a new creation. The Risen Jesus is ushering in a new creation and transforming the world and leading it to a “higher plane” (so to speak) of existence. As Paul says, creation “groans” and is in “labor pains”. This process unfolds through history in a mysterious way, but already today we can enjoy the “first fruits” of this new creation through Jesus Christ.

      A couple analogies, and they are just analogies, but they might be helpful. Often, in the last act of an opera, one of the main characters gets killed. He gets stabbed. Now, in an opera, when the guy gets stabbed, he doesn’t just fall down. He keeps singing for twenty minutes about how he’s been stabbed and he’s dying. He’s still standing on stage and singing. But he’s been killed. To the Christian, death and evil are essentially like the comical staggering of the stage character who’s just been stabbed, because we know that they have been, and are, and will be transformed into all goodness, and that every tear will be wiped from every eye, and that new creation will enjoy blessings that we cannot even imagine. When the evil character waves his sword at us, we can stand firm and smirk, because we see the knife in his back and we know he can’t hurt us. I think that’s something that would be affirmed by, say, St Maximilian Kolbe, who was nonetheless victim to sin and death in a way which most likely none of us will have to encounter.

      Another analogy–and again, it’s just an analogy–is D-Day. Once the D-Day landing was successful, there was simply no doubt, and it was true as a matter of fact that Nazi Germany was defeated. There was simply no way for Nazi Germany to win the war after that point (and indeed, after the US joined the war). And the Allies started planning for the post-war era and carving up Germany and Europe well before the last shot was fired, so certain was the outcome. Now, a bunch of important and fateful things happened between D-Day and VE Day, but it is also true that one can say totally straightfacedly that by the summer of 1944 War in Europe was, in a true and meaningful sense, over, and that this was true even during temporary setbacks like the Battle of the Bulge. And every Allied soldier could know that there was no doubt of the outcome (and every Nazi soldier). And there was still a lot of fight to be had, which was important. But fundamentally, Nazi Germany was defeated. Again, this is an imperfect analogy, because that’s cold comfort to the poor Allied soldier who gets killed in February 1945. But there’s a true sense in which after the Resurrection, the War has been won, the Risen Christ is Lord of the Universe, and all unfolding of history since is essentially rear-guard mopping up of the enemy forces–important work, but work whose outcome is foreordained and in the context of victory.

      I don’t know if that helps. Feel free to follow up.

      • montanajack1948

        thank you for taking the time to reply. I’m going to take time, in turn, to give your reply careful thought and consideration…

      • montanajack1948

        I don’t know if it–your gracious reply–helps either. You point me toward a promised future victory while acknowledging that I’m still in the foxhole waging war against sin (except that, in my experience, I’m actually just as often on the side of sin). I don’t understand why it’s taking an omnipotent God so long to mop up the enemy forces; though that may simply mean that I’m underestimating the enemy forces or overestimating God’s omnipotence.

        Further, your reply does not address, so far as I can tell, my perplexity about my own sins: if Jesus has paid the price for them, do I therefore have carte blanche to sin without consequence? If not, how is my situation (I still sin and I still must pay a price for doing so) any different than if Jesus had never existed?

        Finally, while I know that analogies are only that, I have to
        say that comparing the woes of human history—the Holocaust, to take one example—to the comic staggering of an operatic villain comes very close to trivializing an enormous amount of pain and suffering (which may be why you shifted to a World War II analogy). “When the evil character waves his sword at us…we know he can’t hurt us”? I’m sorry, I guess I still don’t understand: the hurt is real and the hurt is present and the hurt is undeniable, while the promised victory seems no closer today than it was two thousand years ago. I would ask, “What am I missing?” but I think
        I already know the answer: faith.

        • Kasoy

          [When the evil character waves his sword at us…we know he can’t hurt us? I’m sorry, I guess I still don’t understand: the hurt is real and the hurt is present and the hurt is undeniable, while the promised victory seems no closer today than it was two thousand years ago.]

          As Jesus said: Matt 10:28: Fear not those that can kill the body, fear the One who can destroy both body and soul.

          Since man can now enter heaven (if he is in the state of sanctifying grace), man need not fear pain and even death. This is why the saints were ready to die and suffer tortures for the sake of God. It does not mean that man will no longer feel pain.

          More than 2000 years ago (before Jesus’ resurrection), when man dies, he could not enter heaven even if he led a holy life. (WHY? God explained it to Catherine of Siena).

          • montanajack1948

            Again, my sincere thanks. I will ponder all this…

        • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

          I think you are right that the eyes of faith see things differently. If you don’t have faith, you don’t have faith. But if you glimpse the possibility of it, I would advise you to search for it, especially through prayer and eucharistic adoration (wherever you live, there must be a local parish that offers it at least once a week; 15 minutes sitting there once a week for a month won’t kill you).

          I would make a few more points, however:

          – It’s not that Jesus “paid for” your sins, or not only that. It’s that Jesus has opened up a way for you to be one of God’s beloved children, with consequence in this life or the next.

          – The reason why Christians avoid sin and do good works (or the reason why they ought to, at any rate) is not because of fear of punishment or expectation of reward, but out of sheer love and gratitude for God’s saving work, as Jesus Himself did. Jesus did not “have to” die on the Cross. God could have erased our transgressions by a stroke of the proverbial pen. Jesus went on the Cross, at least in part, to show us what true love means: the One who had perfect bliss and perfect happiness went to the ends of pain and dispossession and abandonment, if only to show us what love means, and is. We, in return, imitate Christ because we love Him, a natural response of love by love to love.

          – The consequence of Christ’s saving work for us is not that we suddenly magically become perfect little automatons who do not ever slip up. If that were the case we would no longer be free persons with agency. The consequence is that those sins can be forgiven and that we can receive the graces of God through the Holy Spirit and thereby be holy and pleasing to God and do good works to glorify Him. That ain’t nothing.

          – You will note that I DID refer to the Holocaust. St Maximilian Kolbe was starved to death in Auschwitz. Throughout he sang hymns of joy. You do not see the New Creation? Look at the saints. Fr. Christian de Chergé, martyred by radical Islamists, called his torturer and executioner “my friend of the last minute.” St Francis of Assisi lived every minute of his life as a monk in exuberant joy. These people had the eyes of faith to see the work of the Holy Spirit within them, and the absolute, total, concrete REALITY of the transforming, creative love of Jesus Christ versus the illusion of the imperfections of this world. These people KNEW, with absolute certainty, often unto death and torture and suffering, staring at it in the face, the reality of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, and were full “citizens” of it.

          This does not mean that anybody’s suffering should be trivialized. Suffering is real–as Christ knows better than any of us. But Christ transformed suffering into a spring of new life.

          • mochalite

            PEG, what you’ve written in your original response and here could be another whole post! Such a prodigious gift God has given you for describing the landscape of faith. So many are blessed by it. :))

          • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

            Oh boy. I don’t know about that.

          • mochalite

            You know I’m old enough to be your mother, so please hear my Mom voice when I say, “Oh, yeah, it’s true. Doubt when you need to, but run with it your whole life long. God blesses us so we can be a blessing!”

          • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

            LOL. Duly noted. Thank you.

        • mochalite

          May I add one more perspective? In John 15:4, Jesus says: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” I commend all of John 15 to you … it’s so encouraging! Also, the entire chapter of Galatians 5 says that Christ set us free, but it’s up to us to live out our freedom by abiding in Jesus and letting Him, but the Holy Spirit, abide in us.

          When Jesus canceled the power of sin and death, He didn’t cancel human free will, nor did He (yet) cancel Satan’s hold on the earth. Ephesians 2 calls Satan “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” (that’s another wonderfully encouraging chapter, btw). We have the moment-by-moment choice to return to our abuser, or to abide in Christ, to sin or not to sin.

          The old hymn says, “Oh to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be. Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wand’ring heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love. Take my heart, oh take and seal it; seal it for Thy courts above.” *tear* Thank you, Lord!!

    • Kasoy

      I am basing this explanation on the doctrines revealed to St. Catherine of Siena. I already expounded on this on past blogs. I’ll try to make it brief.

      1- After Adam’s fall and before Jesus died on the Cross:

      The “doors” of heaven were closed to all. No matter how holy life one led, he can never enter heaven. All the holy patriarchs remained in “limbo” awaiting the resurrection of Jesus.

      Thus, death is something to dread because there was no hope to gain eternal joy no matter how man tried to obey God’s laws, ie, before Jesus died. (WHY? I can further explain this if you want.)

      2- After Jesus died on and cross and resurrected:

      The “doors” of heaven can now be “opened by man IF HE CHOOSES to do so. By Jesus’ death and resurrection, God gave each man a “key” to enable him to open the “doors” of heaven IF HE WILL USE the “key”.

      The “key” is to believe in Jesus and obey God’s laws, ie, do good and avoid evil. Man is able to do good by accepting God’s inspirations (actual graces). Through perfect contrition or confession, man regains sanctifying grace (the grace we receive after baptism). Sanctifying grace makes man “worthy” to enter heaven (white garment for the parable of the wedding feast).

      Thus, death is not something to fear as long as we remain in sanctifying grace.

      Man’s inclination to sin (concupiscence) was never removed by the death of Jesus.

  • mochalite

    Way to go, kids! Jesus did indeed suck all sin, past, present, and future, into Himself … beyond amazing! Here’s I Peter 2:24: “And he personally bore our sins in his own
    body on the cross, so that we might be dead to sin and be alive to all
    that is good. It was the suffering that he bore which has healed you.” Hallelujah!

    • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      Amen.


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