Bread In The Wilderness
Fr. Carl Diederichs
Parish Priest

The Love of the Forgiving Victim

Those of us fortunate enough to be baptized into the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, have just completed the holy season of Lent, the Death and Resurrection of Christ at Easter, and the bestowing of the Holy Spirit upon our ancestors at Pentecost. Is all this just theological mumbo jumbo or are these “life changing” events in the life of Jesus and His disciples real for us?

The God and Father of us all, at one point in history blessed us with Jesus Christ, who came to us to fulfill the prophetic messages of the prophets and to “reinterpret” the scripture with Himself as the pivotal point in the history of salvation. He did something no other god of any religion up until then and even until now has done: He suffered death at the hands of the state and of His own religion and He rose not to condemn or retaliate for the lynching, but to offer His followers and the whole world “Peace.” He is the Forgiving Victim. Unheard of!

On Pentecost Sunday we proclaimed from John’s Gospel that after He died and was buried He came back to his disciples who were gathered in a room with the door locked for fear. He did not condemn them for abandoning Him and denying Him. He offered them “Peace.” He offered them “Shalom” which means that He offered them absolute forgiveness of all their sins and fullness of life and happiness.

The Forgiving Victim, who still carried the scars of crucifixion, gave them peace! No judgment, no recriminations, but peace! Remember when Jesus walked with the two after they left Jerusalem dejected and sad? He walked with them and “reinterpreted” all of scripture for them. He now showed them in fact that to follow Him we would also need to be forgiving and slow to anger and hatred, since we too have received the “Peace” of Christ. The days of our thinking that our God is an angry God just waiting to even the score, should be over. Any references to a wrathful God in scripture have been reinterpreted by the way Jesus lived and died and came back as a Forgiving Victim not to even the score.

I think this “Forgiving Victim” theology is life giving. Our ancestors were gathered in that upper room with the door locked for fear. I think they were afraid that the forces that took Jesus’ life were coming for them. I also think they were deeply sad because they had abandoned Him. They must have felt so guilty and hopeless. But Jesus came back into their lives not as judge and condemner but as Forgiving Victim.

And we, who have been forgiven with the “Shalom” that Jesus gave to his disciples, are now empowered to forgive others with the same “shalom.” No more tooth for tooth, eye for an eye, no more death for a death. “Peace be with you.”