I have a prayer book somewhere that the Oblates of Mary Immaculate put out many years ago. It’s boxed away, so I can’t get the exact text, but there’s a passage from its Sorrowful Mysteries that has always struck me. I forget if it’s from the Scourging or the Crowning. Referring to those who tortured Jesus, it says,
“Jesus could have annihilated every one of those men, but He sat there in the dirty purple robe and took it.”
Think about that: annihilated. Not just “killed.” Not just “beat”. Not just “blown away.”
He’s God. He could have annihilated them. He could have made them into nothing. Their bodies would have just ceased to exist. Vanished. Technically, their immortal souls, too. There’s really nothing, but God’s own will, deciding that Joel Osteen is right and He should just terminate the souls of the damned.
There’s an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation called “Who Watches the Watchers” where the Enterprise crew encounter one of those godlike beings they’re wont to meet up with. In this case, it’s this planet that’s been decimated by war, and there’s this strange old couple living there, and not wanting to evacuate. And it turns out the wife is dead. The husband is some kind of being with amazing preternatural powers. The wife died with the rest of the colonists, and he was so grief-stricken that he recreated their home and his wife. He was also grief stricken that he destroyed the invaders (I forget their names). Picard comments, for clarity, that he destroyed the ship. He said, “No. I destroyed every last one of them.” Complete genocide.
You know, God could do that, if He wanted to.
If God wanted to destroy the abortionists, He could annihilate them.
If God wanted to destroy the terrorists, He could annihilate them.
But no. God set a higher standard. Yes, before Christ, things were different, because we didn’t have His grace. So back then, just as a parent has to be more restrictive about a preschooler’s exposure to the world than a teenager’s, and just as an adult can be exposed to things a teenager cannot, so too God had to protect His people before Christ with the execution and genocide of pagans.
Yet, even when St. Elijah the Prophet killed the 300 prophets of Ba’al, God still reminded Elijah, on Mt. Carmel, that He is not found in the earthquake or the storm but in the “still, soft wind.”
Christ came to set a higher standard: lay down your life. Don’t retaliate.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains but a grain of wheat,” said Jesus. Fulton Sheen notes that, in the context, Jesus was speaking to an audience that included Greeks. He was reformulating the Natural Law and showing how even the Christian principle of self-sacrifice was part of the Natural Law. Of course it is, a knowledgeable Greek might reply, Socrates taught it:
“It is better to suffer evil than to do it,” says Socrates in the Gorgias.
The Buddhists understand it, too, to some extent, though they think the goal is to annihilate oneself in Nirvana, not to fulfill oneself.
God could have annihilated us so many times, and He hasn’t done it yet.
I was telling the kids this at dinnner tonight. I said, “Think of that next time your sibling does something you don’t like, and you want to retaliate.”
Gianna looked up at me with her bright, knowing eyes, and said,
“I’ll probably forget.”
Don’t we all, Gi.