WelCom May 2017:
Fr Neil Vaney sm –
Images of Violence
In recent years our television has provided us with some graphic and disturbing images of teenage bullying. We have watched girls and boys lying on the ground being kicked and punched. The Bible sometimes speaks of Jesus as a victim, ‘bearing our burdens’. This can arouse ominous echoes in those who have been victims of family violence or bullying.
Jesus as Scapegoat
Family is where we learn to love. That comes out of being picked up, cuddled, patted and soothed when pain troubles small bodies. In fact, love is rationed out in many families; because of parental fatigue or sibling jealousy there is never enough to go around.
A brilliant Catholic anthropologist, Rene Girard, was stunned to discover that every culture he studied contained ideas of sacrifice needed to placate the gods. This demanded scapegoats. They were often the misfits, the family oddballs. Nearly every family and group, often unconsciously, elects someone to blame for their lack of unity. Heaping hurt on their victim will recreate their failing bonds, so they feel. In this way scapegoats are born.
Jesus knew this well. As his own time drew near he could see that he would be the victim of the need to protect priestly power. By refusing to retaliate, and teaching his followers to do the same, he broke the cycle of violence and counter-violence. By rising from the dead he freed his followers from the need to seek revenge.
The period after Easter is a time of moving on. It is a time to reflect how the Spirit of the risen Christ can shine out in our lives. When I am tempted to blame, let me praise; when I see the failures of others, let me ask how they reflect my own shortcomings. When I behold the bruised and battered Christ on the cross help me to accept that this was his pathway to new life and freedom.
Fr Neil Vaney is the Chaplain-Pastoral Director at the New Zealand Catholic Enquiry Centre. If you have a question about Catholic faith and the Church please email it to Fr Neil at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0800 328 437 and leave a message.