Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Global concern vs. the divine calculus of incarnation

I am currently studying Latin at the University of Chicago, the idea being that we will begin teaching our novices Latin this fall and that I will be the teacher.

Most afternoons, depending on where I park (usually far from the campus, as Hyde Park is currently considered the worst parking neighborhood in the city), I walk past a church that advertises as one of its groups or committees "Global Concern." I don't know what this group claims as its goals, but I will make an observation about some trends in both civic and church life in recent decades, an observation that seems at least related to the phrase 'global concern'.

It is very easy to feel concern for someone I don't know, someone far away. It is right to feel a sense of human solidarity with those suffering anywhere, but often times our sympathies come up short with those right next to us. This is because when we get to know actual people, we get to know how very limited they are, how unworthy of sympathy they may seem.

If you'll pardon reference to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, in Judas' posthumous solo number, "Jesus Christ Superstar," he poses an important question. "Why did you choose such a strange land?...If you came today you'd be the star of the nation. Israel 4 B.C. had no mass comunication." In taking flesh, Jesus Christ committed himself to sojourning in one place, loving and fretting over real people with all-too-real limitations. Indeed, in the musical, Judas' major limitation is his inability to understand why Jesus isn't more ambitious.

And yet this one, singular lived life was the crux of all history and the touchstone for all humanity. As such, the life lived well is the life of global concern, at least from the perspective of grace.

This should be a source not only of inspiration in terms of how we ought to live, but should be a consolation in terms of where we stand in God's eyes. Jesus, the cosmic ruler, is not ashamed to call you and me his 'companions' (Latin com-panis: those who share bread together). He is not scandalized by the smallness of a single human life. He proves this not by vapid platitudes about universal harmony, but by letting real Roman soldiers drive real nails through his real human hands, for the sake of real men who deserted him.

We can feel all kinds of feelings for those suffering a world away. Am I willing to be kind to my enemy who lives beside me?

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If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
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Origen of Alexandria
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