By scientific reckoning, the creation event occurred about 13.8 billion years ago in what we now refer to as the Big Bang. A Belgian Jesuit priest by the name of George Lemaître first theorized the ‘Great Fireworks’ (his words) in 1927. Six years later Father Lemaître convinced Einstein to give up his theory of a static universe in favor of an expanding universe.
So what does cosmology have to do with the Passion of the Lord and what other question does it raise?
Simply this… Why did God wait most of those 13.8 Billion years before entering creation to save us? Well, first of all, the Earth has only been in existence for 4.54 Billion years, but again why wait so long? Well secondly, humans have been around for about 200,000 years, but again why wait 198,000 years before the birth of Jesus? Now the questions begin to get a bit dicey. Why only 2,000 years ago and why, after only three years of public ministry, was Jesus put to a scandalous death?
That Christ’s incarnation occurred improbably, ridiculously, at such-and-such a time, into such-and-such a place, is referred to—with great sincerity even among believers—as “the scandal of particularity.” Well, the “scandal of particularity” is the only world that I, in particular, know. What use has eternity for light? We’re all up to our necks in this particular scandal. —Annie Dillard Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Harper’s Magazine Press: 1974), 80.
Unless I can experience salvation first hand, I will only have concepts, doctrines, and universals. I can appreciate doctrines, and universals may give identity, but I cannot fall in love with concepts. Jesus of Nazareth, though he was in the form of God, emptied himself, and became a vulnerable human infant, then as a slave he became like us in all ways except sin. However, “For our sake, he who did not know sin became so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
This is a God who is madly in love with his creation and wishes only to be in intimate relationship with us. To accomplish this “He humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8) This movement of God toward us, is as a parent that runs to help the child. As God’s beloved children, He is inviting us into an I-Thou relationship. With this invitation, I have the freedom to respond to this love in this particular man, this Jesus. This loving relationship is a concrete and personal relationship. But Jesus lived 2,000 years ago, how can we encounter and experience this relationship today, in this time and in this place? This brings us back to the scandal of the particular and to His command to love as He loved. (John 13:34-35) He says, to us, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40b)
During my recent trip to Jeremie, Haiti to visit the OLPH Orphanage I experienced His love in a very particular and concrete way. The children, so starved for affection and the hugs of parents, hugged us, and were with us the whole time, holding our hands and looking into our eyes. I was struck that as our modest efforts to care for them is an expression of our love for the Christ in them; their love for us is the very real expression of Christ’s love for us. This is the restored relationship between God and man that is nothing less than salvation. This salvation is universally available, but it becomes real and concrete to me in the scandal of the particular. …At this time, in this place, and with this child.