They are the devil incarnate. They are the demon possessed. We will rise up in righteous fury and put a stake through their heart, burn them, crucify them, torture them and kill them slowly. We will do this evil and not only justify ourselves but think ourselves God’s servants for doing so.
This is the age old story. Deny it if you will and you will join the howling crowd. Deny it if you will and you are one of the lynch mob. Express your own rage and desire for violent vengeance and you join the Ku Klux Klan with their torches by night, the Gestapo with their cattle cars and ovens, the Soviets who both starved peasants and murdered nobility.
You also join the crowd on that Friday screaming “Crucify Him!”
And this is where the Christian story intersects with the cycle of violence and vengeance in the world. The crucified one stands on trial and says in his silence, “You want someone to blame? Blame me.”
As they scream he regards them with compassion and says, “This is what it comes to: that you would crucify the Lord of Glory.”
And then in that sacrifice he turns the tables. In taking the blame he extinguishes the flame of hatred, fear and violence. In becoming the victim he abolished the violence and vengeance.
In this sacrifice and subsequent victory over death he defeats the cycle of violence and vengeance from the inside out.
This sacrifice, this cross and this victory are the constant, throbbing heartbeat which counters the endless ancient cycle of violence and vengeance in the world.
This is why I celebrate Mass each day, because at that simple altar the one, full, final sacrifice is made real and present in the world.
This is why, if I were an Army chaplain I would do so even on the battlefield as the bombs were dropping and the bullets flying.
There the one answer– the only answer to the cycle of violence is found, and it is only by lifting high that cross, bearing that monstrance, and declaring this other way that peace will be found.