Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent at Mississippi Abbey

We heard in yesterday’s gospel that “the religious leaders began to persecute Jesus” because He had healed (converted) a man and told him to take up his mat on the Sabbath. With this decision to persecute Him, Jesus became a scapegoat. A scapegoat is an innocent victim. Today we hear the speech of an innocent victim.

A community tends to create scapegoats when it is confronted with a problem that is too much for it. Scapegoating is a spontaneous and unconscious mechanism by which someone, arbitrarily chosen, is falsely accused and victimized. It offers relief from community tensions. The relief brings unity and harmony to the community. It is “the peace that the world gives.” And precisely in doing that it leaves no room for the peace of Christ.

It is the crucified Christ who exposes the scapegoating mechanism. Why is that?

Scapegoating is the sin of the world. In the Garden of Eden humans so clung to bodily goods (including ego self-preservation) at the expense of their relationship with God, that they readily violated love of neighbor at the same time they violated love of God by blaming another for disobeying Him. Eve blamed the serpent, Adam blamed Eve. Neither could live in the truth of confessing their indigence before God. It has been that way ever since. In truth, we find it awkward to face our poverty and utter dependence before God.

In those places where the Holy Spirit is allowed, Christ says, “Peace I leave you, My peace I give to you.” The peace of Christ is not that of finding someone to blame. It is in what one theologian calls “The Intelligence of the Victim:” i.e., the mind of Christ (We are told to “have this mind in you” [Phil. 2]). It is the peace of Christ found in empathy for victims and in self-donation.

In short, the Intelligence of the Victim, and the Lenten season, is about first becoming dissatisfied with our self-deception that makes scapegoating attractive. Then it is about facing our inadequacies and using them to help identify with others inadequacies. Then we forget self and serve others.

With the Saving Victim who will judge us, we can then say, “I do not seek my own will, but the will of the one who sent me.”