28 April 2012

The Roman Coliseum: a Microcosm of the World (3rd Sun. after Easter 2012)

Amen, amen, I say to you, that you shall lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice;
and you shall be made sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.

Third Sunday after Easter
29 April 2012

When we hear these words of our Lord, spoken to His disciples at the Last Supper, we understand their primary meaning. We understand that the Passion and Death of Christ will lead His disciples to lament and weep, and that His Resurrection will turn their sorrow into joy. We understand that the “world” — that is, those who wanted to see Christ suffer and die — rejoiced when they saw their wish fulfilled. And yet, Christ died to reconcile the world to Himself; to bring about the conversion of the world; to provide the Way for people to escape the degradation and darkness of sin and restore to them their original dignity. Perhaps this is why Our Lord does not say that the joy of the world will turn into lamentation and sorrow.

St. John likens the Jews who sought the death to the “world”. That’s because these Jews, in rejecting Christ and seeing to the death of the Son of God, represented at that moment the entire world. After all, the entire human race was estranged from God because everyone incurs the guilt of Adam’s sin and thus is born outside of the state of grace.

Now, the Roman Empire, the world into which Christ was born, the world in which the early Christians lived, was at that time wallowing in depravity. Shortly before the birth of Christ the Roman historian Livy, in the preface to his massive history of Rome, advised his reader with these words:

"I would …have him trace the process of our moral decline, to watch first the sinking of the foundations of morality as the old teaching was allowed to lapse, then the final collapse of the whole edifice, and the dark dawning of our modern day when we can neither endure our vices nor face the remedies needed to cure them."