While attending Wesley Seminary in Washington, D.C. in the 1960s, I had the privilege of hearing an array of guest lecturers and preachers. Well known theologians, preachers, and politicians regularly spoke in chapel or the lecture hall. Even President Kennedy spoke on campus only a few weeks before his tragic death.
The most transformative guest during my three years on campus was Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived the Nazi concentration camps. He shared his struggles to survive the daily stench of death and the loss of family and friends in the barbaric gas ovens.
Dr. Frankl’s very presence was testimony to courage and hope amid unimaginable cruelty and death. While the holocaust reveals the raw evil of humanity, Viktor Frankl’s life bore witness to the triumph of hope over despair.
Dr. Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, has inspired countless people for more than half century. He affirms that although we may have limited control over what happens we have freedom to determine our attitude toward what happens. He contends that humans can live with almost any what if we have a why, a meaning amid the circumstances.
I have been reminded over the years of these words from Dr. Frankl: “[Man] is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.”
We live in troubled, uncertain, and dangerous times. Hatred and harshness, cruelty and crudeness, greed and grossness, viciousness and violence have been normalized. Injustice, prejudice, and exploitation are defended as virtues. Indifference to and scorn for the poor, the imprisoned, the homeless, and the immigrants has become public policy.
Cynicism and despair are luring temptations in such a time as this. We can succumb to the temptation and be paralyzed by hopelessness. Or, we can choose the way of hope and action.
This weekend we celebrate the reason for hope! In the crucifixion of Jesus the Christ, God took on all the hatred, cruelty, greed, violence, injustice, prejudice and exploitation humanity can muster. Jesus entered his own death chamber upright, with the prayer “Father, forgive them” on his lips.
Evil did not, does not, have the last word! On Easter God delivered the everlasting “No!” to humanity’s evil! The Resurrection is God’s eternal, cosmic “YES!” to everything Jesus was, said, and did!
Love triumphs over hate! Compassion defeats cruelty and indifference! Forgiveness disarms vengeance! Humility undermines arrogance! Freedom wins over bondage! Life conquers death!
We, therefore, can live these troubled times with our shoulders straightened, our eyes on the future triumph of God’s reign of justice, compassion, generosity, and joy. We know that the decisive victory has already been won in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ!