Where was God in all this carnage and violence and despair? Doesn’t he hear prayers? Does he not care?
Where was God? He was on the cross.
He came to us as Emmanuel, “God with us.” Not just alongside us but detached. Not just observing us but keeping his hands clean. with us. one of us. Like us in all things save sin. God, who was alone immortal and immaterial and uncreated and impassable, entered time, took on flesh, and died in time, in space.
From that day on Calvary and continuously throughout time, he was and has been on the cross. The righteous suffering for the unrighteous. The innocent dying for the guilty. The spotless lamb slaughtered in place of the sinful people.
His immense suffering, though accomplished that one time on the cross reverberates through every moment of time and every bit of space because it was done by the God-man. He is outside of time and space, and his very being imbues every moment of time and every bit of space with his life.
And what was done by the God-man on the cross was a supreme act of love. A choice to love. An acceptance, even embrace, of the death being inflicted on him for the sake of us all. A self-gift by he who had no fault to make perfect atonement for those who know fault time and time again. An act of such pure love that he even prayed for his executioners and his betrayers and those who agitated for his death while he was being executed.
He made this perfect sacrifice of his own flesh and blood because he knew, as he showed us, that love is stronger than hate. Love is more powerful than death. In the face of love, death and hate and decay are wisps of smoke that can only suggest fear, but cannot harm.
He showed us this when he did not stay dead.
He suffered a very public, brutal execution, hanging naked on a cross, jeered and watched by his own countrymen and the soldiers of the foreign occupiers. He died before all of their eyes. He was dead.
And then he wasn’t. He resurrected in his flesh and blood to bring us all with him into the House of the Father. He passed out of death back into life to show us that death and hate have no power but deception and fear.
To be sure, deception and fear can be powerful, but only if we let them be so.
Where was God in Bataclan? In San Bernardino? In Sandy Hook? In Columbine? In every suffering we experience? He is suffering. He is on the cross. He is dying, too.
But he is also in the glory of heaven, entreating all for all time, in all space, to take up our crosses and follow him, as he did: with humility, with joy, and most of all, with love.
Because hate and death is not the end, not even close. Love is.