Bob McClory begins his latest book, "As It
Was in the Beginning," by quoting from the Grand Inquisitor chapter of
Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov."
The Spanish Church's 16th-century judge of
orthodoxy and heresy arrests Jesus, who has returned, healing and comforting
"The old inquisitor's complaint is
basically this: that Jesus refused to use His power to relieve mankind of
the burden of freedom. 'Freedom of faith was dearer to Thee than anything in
those days fifteen hundred years ago,' he says. 'Didn't Thou not often say,
"'I will set you free!'" But now Thou hast seen these "free
men."...Yes, we've paid dearly for it...but at least we have completed
that work in Thy name. For fifteen centuries we have been wrestling with Thy
freedom. But now it is over and ended for good."
Death and life
The biblical message for the Easter Vigil Mass
revolves around life. In the period before our lectors start to proclaim the
readings, we experience the contrast between dark and light, night and day,
death and life.
Above everything, we're commemorating the life
that Jesus so generously shares with His followers. But what kind of life
does the risen Jesus offer? Our sacred authors were convinced it's more than
just the ability to get into heaven one day.
The early Christians celebrated this most
important event against the background of Yahweh's rescuing a band of Hebrew
slaves from Egyptian captivity (Exodus 14:15-15:1). On one side of the sea
was slavery; on the other, freedom.
The life Yahweh offers is rooted in ordinary,
earthly freedom, not heavenly bliss. But, as Isaiah pointed out during his
people's Babylonian captivity (Isaiah 55:1-11), there's a price to pay for
being free: We must personally choose to sidestep the serenity and security
that slavery offers, and accept the pain and uncertainty that freedom
demands, the very thing from which the Grand Inquisitor saves us.
Once one freely gives oneself to God, one
begins a unique existence. Though God is always near, the prophet also
reminds us of the other side of the coin. "For my thoughts are not your
thoughts, nor are your ways my ways," says Yahweh. "As high as the
heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my
thoughts above your thoughts."
Determining what are God's ways is a life-long
process. Slaves never have the opportunity -- or burden -- to make such
The reading from Romans (Romans 6:3-11) on the
life Jesus offers is simply an introduction to Paul's thesis on Christian
freedom. Following these moving words, the Apostle reminds his readers,
"Thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves of sin, you have
become obedient from the heart to the pattern of teaching to which you were
entrusted. Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness."
Paul then demonstrates how Jesus' death and
resurrection has freed His followers from the slavery of the 613 laws of
Moses. Paul can't conceive of Christians living their faith without freedom.
Such a concept is just as disturbing to some of
us today as was the angel's Easter message to the frightened women (Matthew
28:1-10). They didn't find what they thought they'd find. It would take them
a long time to understand the implications of Jesus' being alive among them.
The early Church eagerly accepted pain and
hardship as an essential part of the freeing life of Jesus, the very pain
and hardship which the Grand Inquisitor had successfully eradicated by
By the way, the subtitle of McClory's book is
"The Coming Democratization of the Catholic Church." If we think
we're having problems now....