The place where we meet God is on fire.
The third holiest site in the world, Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount in
Jerusalem, burned on Monday.
At the same hour in Paris, Notre Dame was in flames.
In recent weeks, three historic churches in St. Landry Parish in Louisiana were set
ablaze by an arson now being charged with a hate crime.
This string of burnings of black churches, tied to a white suspect, recalls so many crosses
ablaze in the darkest nights of the American soul.
The burning crosses were a clear message to black skinned children of God from
cowardly children of God hiding in white hoods: We don’t want your kind here.
It’s the same message the original cross sent to God.
On Good Friday, the place where we meet God is on fire.
Except that it’s not a place, it’s a face.
In John’s second chapter, after Jesus purges the temple of religious commerce, he says,
Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.
“This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in
But he was speaking of the temple of his body.
The temple, the meeting place between God and humanity, is no longer a
building, it’s a body.
God dangeously trades in bricks and mortar for skin and bones, and God gets burned.
A woman named Kristan Higgins tweeted this week:
Speaking as a Catholic here...please don’t donate to help Notre Dame.
The Church is worth $30 billion.
Donate to help Puerto Rico recover.
Donate to get the people of Flint clean water.
Donate to get kids out of cages.
Jesus didn’t care about stained glass.
He cared about humans.
The Word who became flesh could have become stained glass; he might have survived.
The Word who became flesh could have become anything else.
The Word became human flesh, because God was so intent on meeting us where we are.
The Word became flesh, full of grace and truth, and then we made it clear: We
don’t want your kind here.
And we set God’s body on fire.
Like a brave or crazy Californian, John stares into the flames and sees hope.
He uses words like lifted up and glorified to describe Christ crucified.
It is finished is the victorious announcement of mission accomplished.
At the cross Christ at last succeeds in drawing all people to himself.
This cross is victory, this fire is salvation, and this Friday is Good.
New life will rise from the ashes, as we are also seeing this week, as heroism and
beauty endure, generosity flourishes, and we see signs of hope for humanity yet.
Thirty-one years ago, I wept as I watched flames ravage Yellowstone National Park, the
most gorgeous place I had ever met God.
My wise father said, “Best thing that could have happened.”
He then explained to his startled son that the fire would chase the humans out of
the park and give nature the time and the chance to heal and regenerate.
Those flames of death were the beginning of new life.
St. John sees the cross and rejoices: “Best thing that could have happened.”
This dumpster fire is grace.
This ugly, awful Friday is Good.