Posted March 17, 2008 in Lent and Easter:
The Scapegoat

by Fr. Bob Wild.

Denounce him; let us denounce him…. They fetched stones to throw at Jesus….

These are just a few of the many scriptural statements describing the sufferings of the Son of Man.

What a mystery! Here we have this most merciful of all persons, a Man who did nothing but heal the sick and speak words of life and love, being attacked verbally, with stones and clubs, and finally with hammer and nails.

The image that often comes to me in this context is that of the scapegoat in the Book of Leviticus. On the feast of the Atonement the priest put his hands over a goat and confessed his sins and the sins of all the people. Then the goat was driven into the wilderness, symbolizing a "good riddance" to their sins.

Jesus is our scapegoat. The Father extended his hands over Jesus and laid upon him the sins of us all. In some way the wrath of God, the anger of God, was unleashed upon this meek person, Jesus.

And we who have been baptized into Christ share not only in his priestly, prophetic, and kingly attributes, but also in his victimhood.

This is one reason why our sufferings will never be totally understandable to us.

We can pray over each other for healing, and that is helpful. We can examine our lives and repent and change the things causing us or others pain, and this is good and essential.

We can attempt to make the structures in which we live more humane and conducive to the Gospel, and that will be a step forward. But there will always be a dimension to our sufferings that remain mysterious and not subject to analysis or resolution.

This is because we share in the victimhood of Christ. If we can find a reason or a cause for our sufferings, they become easier to bear. But then there is the suffering that makes no sense, that leads to self-pity, that eats away at us like a cancer.

We must look at Jesus the Scapegoat. Why him? Why all the pain laid upon the Sinless One, the Good One, the Holy One?

There are many theories of how the redemption "works," but we don’t have to know how it works in order to live by its power and strength. All we need to do is enter into the mystery of Jesus’ victimhood, meet him there in faith, and unite ourselves with him. If we do this, we will experience what is perhaps the ultimate resolution of the problem of suffering.


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