Herbert O'H Walker, S.J.
THE calendar read the first week of August, but the weather
shouted late October. The lake crowd shivered in summer dress, and the
homes along White Bear Lake were closed tightly about the warmth of
fires on open hearths. A spanking breeze came off the lake, cold and
wet. The surface waters rolled and fussed along the piers and shore
line - grey like the low clouds crossing the sky in packed formations.
Tommy McShane was
removing the cover from a motor-boat. The beautifully lined toy,
champing and tugging in the heavy wash, threatened to snap her tether.
Running out on the dock, rejoicing in the bold weather, the wind in her
clothes, her wave blown to a memory, came Jane, the popular daughter of
"Hello, Tommy," she shouted. "And please admit
I'm here on time."
"Why Palmolive ?"
"Oh, the green
wrapper you are wearing and the honest complexion."
"Thank the sun and plenty of spinach in my
In a moment the
motor-boat was off sweeping round the end of the pier and out into the
lake. Alert to every thrill, eagerly riding into the challenge of the
wind and flying spray, Jane and Tommy enjoyed the heavy going to the
"Great, isn't it ?" she
cried, lifting her head to the wind, eating it up, intoxicated with it.
"This is sport, Jane. Football isn't in it. Wait
till we reach the point. I'll pull this beast right up on its hind
Seated on the
mahogany hatch, her feet swung down on the seat, she reached forward
and downward, clinging to the blue sweater at his shoulders.
The voice of the engine opened up, ran
down a couple of octaves to a deep bass, and went into a crescendo. The
nose of the boat lifted out of the water higher and higher, and like a
sword knifing through the peaks of the waves, the boat shot past the
point and with incredible speed cut a long triangle down the lake. It
was furious going - bucking, hurtling and splashing.
In a moment they were in the bay
before the town of White Bear. The power was cut and the flying shell
of a boat slumped immediately.
"Was that wild
enough for you ?" he challenged. "Wonderful ! It was
barbaric !" she exulted. "I love wild things like this."
Like Wild Music
In a rich baritone he sang out the first theme
of Marche Slav.
She shivered with
emotion. "That's my favourite. It sends big icy chills down my back. I
feel that the bubbling forces of a serf rebellion will burst through at
"Volcanic, Jane. But if Tschaikowsky had only
known Russia after those seething powers had blown off the lid, what a
subject for his genius ! The smouldering crater of
"My! How dramatic you are
! Smoking Russia! Tell me about the big, hairy
men with flaming torches, the darkening steppe and horror prowling.
Woof-woof, Tommy! You can't frighten me."
The launch got caught in the trough and began
to roll treacherously. Tom sped up the idling engine, cut a graceful
swath in the bay, and started on the five-mile course to Wildwood.
"Say, Little Emotion," said Tommy, "just one
snort out of rioting Bolsheviks would put you away like a toppled doll."
"Why all the gloom
about Communist Russia ? They are just getting on their
feet after all the years of serfdom. They've gone modern.
That's all. Learning industry and things. A mechanical revolution."
"That's not the sad part, Jane. Everybody
likes to see them move ahead. But they have never matured over there.
No growth; and no tradition to build on."
"Oh, yes, they've got
plenty to remember. A fine memory of long suppression. They know what
they don't want. You can bet on that."
"Well, if they didn't want any more
oppression, they certainly are getting what they didn't want. They
can't even think as they might wish to, now. Freedom of thought is
gone. Decent parents are not allowed to teach their children the
consoling religious doctrines that made their harsh lives at least
liveable during the days of the Empire. The State has condemned them
all to atheism. They are raising a monster; the Soviet will never be
able to control it."
Backs to Christ
"Oh, Tommy, just because a few churches were
burned and closed you are getting hysterical. You have to expect such
things in every violent change."
"Not the loss of a church here and there so
much as the purpose behind the change is significant. They believe that
by crushing out religion they are getting revenge for their past
slavery. They are hurling their furies directly at Christ - the only
person that can possibly save them and give them stability. If they
want Western civilization, let them look at the foundation upon which
it is builded."
"We get along without Christ. I'm not an
atheist, but I don't go to church."
"But you don't
get along without Christ - not after nineteen hundred years of
Christianity and more. The flavours and salts of Christianity have sunk
deep into our body politic. They are there. Christ is there even if you
don't recognize Him. As long as we have the tradition of Christianity,
or are sponging upon the good fruits of its teaching, no one can say
that he is getting along without Christ."
Through Hate to Oblivion
"Well, Tommy, I think that Communist Russia will
always know about Christ, anyway; for people who hate anyone have to
know who it is they hate and the reasons for their hatred."
"That's just the sad part about
it. If they really knew Christ they could not hate Him. What they hate
is not Christ at all, but a distorted picture of Him. But why worry
about it, after all ? Rome tried to ignore Christ. When
Christianity was only an infant, Rome swore to crush it out. She
failed. And if Rome failed when Christianity was young, I don't see how
the Communists in Russia can succeed now that Christianity has stature
and is spread over the whole world."
"A good point, Tommy. But can't Communist
Russia, say, just drop Christ out of her life, just let the people grow
up without ever hearing about Him ?
"No. I don't think so.
Communist Russia can't educate her children without mentioning Christ.
History is against it. An educated Russian might care to travel. As
soon as he steps out of his country he will be confronted with Christ
in a thousand ways. Churches, the Cross, Sunday, the calendar, he will
meet Christ everywhere. They really can't expect to get away with any
plan like that. They might just as well face the facts and admit that
they cannot ignore Christ."
They swept close in to the resort called
Wildwood; and cutting down the gas, worked slowly through the public
The place was deserted. The amusement halls
and the scaffolding supports of the mechanical toys for grown-up folk
were spectre-white and dreary-looking. The cold, raw morning kept away
the daily colour and the babel of the noisy crowds searching for
happiness at their shrines of varnished pomp and tin-pan splendour. The
dreariness drove Jane back to her mind, where the question, "Why can't
Christ be ignored ?" was making a nuisance of itself. It
demanded her attention.
The ride from Wildwood to Montemed is a short
one. In a few minutes they were back at the dock, serious like the
weather. As they followed the walk up to the cottage, a casual
passer-by might have observed their thoughtful deportment, and smiled
to think that young lovers still quarrelled and that life was an old
story ever much the same, a monotony of joy and sorrow.
Doctor at Ease
Dr. Weyward had watched Jane and Tommy go off in the
launch and then turned to make himself comfortable for the morning. He
was a squat, punchy man, with a round, jovial face. Deep-cut radii at
the corners of his eyes told of kindness and sympathy. His eyes did
most of his conversation for him - wise old eyes hiding in the caves
below his heavy eyebrows. When one thought of the doctor, one
remembered those alert eyes.
The dull, chill morning was forbidding, but
the snapping of the fire in the open hearth and the feathers of yellow
flame weaving among the twisted fagots were warm and inviting. There
stood his easy chair yawning before the fire. Its ease and comfort, a
warm punch, a pipeful of fresh tobacco, an essay or two by his
favourites Cobb and Baring, were rather pleasant antidotes for a dreary
day, and not to be scorned by a man well on in years.
Snuggling down into the chair, He took up
Cobb's "Here Comes the Bride" and began to read "Some Crying Needs."
He chuckled audibly as he finished the second paragraph.
"All male professional reformers should be bumped off at dawn. In the
case of lady professional reformers I shouldn't care to wait that long;
I'd have them out before the firing squad as soon as the moon was up."
His brother Fred had unwittingly married
a lady professional reformer. Poor Fred had been uplifted so much and
trained to act like so many leaders of the various sects that he now
looked like a composite religious conference on marriage problems.
A sound of mirth rolled off the doctor's lips,
a sound that came from the depths of his body. He pictured Fred
aligning the firing squad at once, without waiting for the rise of the
"I have been neglecting Fred," he thought. "I
must get him out from town for a night. The poor devil needs a drink
and a decent laugh. I will read this at him and then lean back in my
chair to hear him roar out his woes about Emily."
The doctor had listened to Fred's screed so
often that he knew it almost by heart. The trick of getting his brother
started was an old one with him. "The paragraph will do the work. Then
after a pause Fred will get going. What a woman ! Can't see beyond her
nosey nose. She's the All-American end of reformers: Damming the Pope
for being infallible and out-pope-ing the Pope by their own dogmatism !'
"'Forcing morality upon us by stuffing the
ballot box ! They pin the whole nonsense on the fair name
of Jesus of Nazareth. No wonder they see religion breaking up. They're
blocking up the doorways of religion. Smug, self-righteous Dracos. A
lot of sound and fury.'"
Enter Aunt Emily
Someone entered the room and stood behind his
chair. His laughter and the dream speech stopped together and
altogether. He felt the blood go from his face; for in someway he felt
at once who that person was. When he turned and saw Emily, Fred's wife,
he did not learn anything that he had not known from the first. Emily
had all the bearing of a magistrate in the unofficial court of virtue.
She was a school-marm in the new university of religion. The service of
her stale god, Philantrophy, was heavy and one could read its record
out of large blue year books.
Reform on the Loose
The doctor was a philosopher and a reader of poetry and
the informal essay. He had a warm heart. He knew love. The companions
of his leisure - the glass sparkling with Three-Star Hennessy, the blue
whip of smoke standing in his pipe-bowl, the humour of Cobb, the
restful chair - all were splendid witnesses of his expansive soul. But,
strange to say, they graved marks of pain on Emily's face.
"How do you do, Emily?" he said limply, and, a
trifle unnerved, awaited her exorcism.
As Emily was about to speak the front door
opened, letting in Jane and Tommy. Dr. Weyward realized that their
presence would spare him an annoying scene with his brother's wife and
that strategy lay in their company. As Emily whisked the scandalous
glass out of the room, he called to them.
"Come in. Come in
here You scamps must be chilled after the
ride. Pull a chair up to the fire and make yourselves
Tommy McShane was introduced to Aunt Emily.
"He is such a promising lawyer, Aunt Emily,"
Jane babbled on, much to Tommy's confusion, "and has loads of ideas.
You should hear him on Communist Russia. We were just discussing how
absurd the Red Russians are in trying to ignore Christ."
Aunt Emily beamed. "How beautiful,
Jane ! You must tell me about it."
"Well, we decided that
it is impossible to go through life and neglect Christ; that everyone
has to consider Him."
None Can Ignore
"Why, of course, Jane," Emily replied, in that vague
voice so habitual among students in September or straight back from
vacation. Memory, lost in a rapid and useless search for the answer,
seems to speak from the far-off places of her flight.
The doctor had grown so accustomed to the
dogmatic positiveness with which Emily spoke on religious matters, even
in denouncing dogma, that the flimsy, undetermined tone had about the
same effect upon him that would have been produced if she had offered
him a drink. A germ of an idea - a mere suspicion that Emily was not
well founded in her professed business - evolved so rapidly that,
before he could squirm to an upright posture on the edge of his chair,
the resolution of testing her knowledge had been planned, debated,
judged and decided upon.
"Why can't Christ be ignored ?" he asked her,
so quietly and so innocently that if Emily had not been coasting her
memory up and down the ruts of her brain in the section labelled
"Sunday school," she certainly would have read his purpose.
Jane, who was little better than a modern
pagan, had the same question in her head and turned to her Aunt Emily
for the answer.
As Emily remained silent,
the doctor's alert eyes lighted up.
"Because He was the Messias. (or Messiah, if you
prefer the Greek) He was foretold as God," Tommy suggested, after the
fashion of prompters in the flies speaking out the cues to the
stumbling memories on the boards.
While the doctor scowled at Tommy for
intruding into his cross-examination, Emily was cudgelling her memory.
At last all the old lessons she had given the children in the Oak Park
Chapel came tumbling out.
"Centuries before His birth," she said, "Jesus
Christ lived in the soul of a people. In fact, His mission was prepared
by the Hebrew people. From their earliest beginnings they had a
knowledge of the One True God. Pagan nations were their neighbours, and
often enough led them away to a captivity in the heart of idolatry; yet
their faith in the one God was unshaken. This belief, so unique with
them, kept them united. They became an exclusive race. They clung to
the hope that from among them would grow up the Messias, the One
foretold by the prophets, who was to rule Israel and extend her power
over the whole world."
Never had any other idea of the doctor's
failed so utterly. Emily poured on.
"Great prophets stood up in those days,
calling attention to the Coming One. Bit by bit they enlightened the
people about His future work. He would redeem mankind, by
suffering, from the slavery of sin. All nations, until the end of time,
would be able to profit by His scheme of salvation.
"Events in His life were prophesied. He would
be born of a virgin, in Bethlehem. Wise men would visit Him. The great
Isaiah described His miracles, His passion and death as accurately as
though he were an eye witness of
them. I believe that, if one
were to piece all these prophecies together, the main outlines of the
biography of Jesus of Nazareth would be complete.
"Another wonderful thing about the Messias is
the time of His birth, which was given out so many centuries before. He
would come before the sceptre had passed from Judah and after the
second temple had been built. And so on.
"So really, Jane, Christ is too unusual a
person to be neglected. He just cannot be ignored."
"Oh, auntie, you
don't understand us. We didn't mean that one need not know about Him -
ignore Him that way. We meant ignoring what He said, ignoring that His
teaching has been the foundation of our civilization; that we must
consider it. Wasn't that it, Tommy ?"
The doctor's eyes betrayed his pleasure.
"Well, listen to Jane," he thought, "checking up her aunt so neatly !"
"I think it might be wiser, Jane," Tommy
answered, "if one considered who the person is that does the teaching
before paying attention to what he says. Is he worthy of
trust ? Does he know what he is talking about ? What
authority has he ? What are his credentials ?
When you are satisfied with the information you receive on these
points, then consider the teachings."
"But, Tommy, you can't find out anything about
Christ. All we have are His Gospels. We can study His doctrines, but
they are only a part of Him, like a piece of music that tells something
about the composer, but not a great deal. We try to find other
information about him in books. But Christ only appears in the Gospels."
"Why consider all the prophetic witnesses that
Mrs. Weyward talked about," Tommy responded "Isn't there a conclusion
to be drawn from the prophecies ? We know that God knows
all things and is the only one who has knowledge of the future. These
prophets were people like ourselves; they didn't have any monopoly of
future events. And they admitted it. They did not claim any
superiority, but frankly stated that it was God who gave them the
information they imparted to the people.
"But the One who was to come was foretold to
be God. It was God Himself Who would come and save His people. And it
was Jesus Christ Who fulfilled all these prophecies: St.
Matthew wrote his Gospel in order to show that Christ had fulfilled the
prophecies and that the Jews must accept Him for what the prophets said
of Him - that He would be really and truly God. That is why Russia or
China or Communism or Secularism cannot ignore Him. That is why
everyone must consider Christ."
The Jews were Unconvinced
"But the Jews didn't think that Christ had
fulfilled the prophecies. They don't think so today." The doctor
finally had got himself into the argument.
"That isn't altogether
true, doctor. Many Jews at the time of Christ did accept Christianity.
Five thousand were converted after the first speech of St. Peter. Some
of their greatest doctors of the law studied the Scriptures in that day
and embraced Christianity. Many in our own time are being converted.
"Still one must remember that the Jews had
begun to dream of a Messias in the role of a great leader. They were in
high hopes of ruling the world. They expected to take over the power
that was Rome. Human nature, especially boastful human nature, finds it
rather difficult to put aside its sweetest expectations and substitute
a failure for them. They could not get themselves to think that a
crucified person could be the great leader they had been waiting for
during so many centuries. They got the spiritual kingdom of the
Redeemer mixed up with the temporal. If they refuse to consider the
proofs and credentials of Christ, how can they be said to have given
the matter fair treatment ? If they say that Christ has not
fulfilled the prophecies, where are their proofs ? One unfulfilled
prophecy would be sufficient for their stand. They are, as Christ said
of them, stiff-necked in this regard."
Impossible to Cheat
"It seems to me, Tommy, that anybody who knew
these prophecies could adapt his life to them and pass as the One Who
was to come." Jane was showing a deep interest.
"No. Not a chance. What man could, for
example, manage to be born of a virgin? Who could pick the town of his
birth ? What has the unborn got to say about the tribe in
which he will be born ? One cannot pick out one's own kind
of death. These detailed prophecies are more than mere biographical
data. They are so unusual as to stand proof against anything like a
fraud. When they are fulfilled, they point with certainty to the object
for which they were intended, to a manifestation of divinity."
Aunt Emily's face manifested that fine
shade of thought and concomitant passion that registers in the person
of the leading lady when some girl in a subaltern role steals the act
Who was this young fellow to draw conclusions
for her - conclusions she never intended ? Years back she had accepted
the thesis that Christ was a myth and Christianity a legend. Had not
the new philosophy of Humanitarianism gathered the necessary statistics
to prove that, if civilization is to go ahead, the criminal, the
insane, the poor, and the crippled, always stumbling-blocks to
progress, must be quietly but effectively destroyed ?
She and her colleagues were most willing to
admit that Christ was a great teacher, but still a teacher whose
doctrine just did not fit in with the newest modern thought. His care
for the poor, the insane, and the criminal nursed the survival of the
unfit. Much recent thought was wrong if Christ was God, and therefore
she took it that Christ was wrong and could not be God.
"The things I have just said prove
nothing," she said condescendingly. "You must learn to know that modern
criticism exploded all this poppycock about the divinity of Christ. The
men who wrote the New Testament had a splendid knowledge of the old
prophecies, and in writing up the life of Christ wrote it in the light
of these prophecies. They fitted His story to the old biography, for
they knew that people could not escape the overwhelming proof such
coincidence would offer. So, very cleverly, they measured this new life
to match the pattern of the old, and by doing so imposed on the world
the greatest fraud of all time. In fact, it was only during
the last century or so that it was detected. So, young man,
although your conclusions were neatly drawn, they actually mean
Things were getting
tense. Jane and the doctor exchanged a wink which said, "I
wouldn't have missed this for anything."
"But, Mrs. Weyward, that was an
explosion that didn't blow up anything. It turned out to be a lot of
noise and smoke. The Gospels were written at a time in which those who
had known Christ could read them or listen to them read. These people
were in a position to judge whether or not these accounts were true.
lovers of Christ would not have permitted a distorted picture of their
Friend to get into circulation. Nor would His enemies, who had put Him
to death and were at the time persecuting His disciples, have allowed
an invented story to pass for an accurate account. If they could have
detected any forgery in the Gospel records they would have joyfully
pointed it out in order to condemn those records as frauds and burn
them and bring discredit upon Christ's followers.
"The theory of
fraud you mention did not have any foundation. A few critics went on
the assumption that the Gospels were written about one hundred and
fifty years after the death of Christ. But when these critics got down
to solid study they found from their careful research that the New
Testament was put in writing in the times of those who had walked with
and listened to the Master. This blasted their theory, and the whole
superstructure of myth and legend came tumbling down."
Emily was like a man who has entered the sad struggle to fight for his
hair. As his brow lengthens out, the bald reality drives him to either
of two desperate recourses: a wig to fool everybody else but which only
fools himself, or an attitude of defiance.
"To have lost my faith in Christianity," she began slowly,
"does not prove that I am irreligious. I believe that the personality
of Christ is most attractive, and for certain people presents a very
high mark of goodness for them to aim at. There is the splendid example
of His courage to lead them on. But any social worker knows that our
modern social maladies are with us despite the presence of
Christianity, and that Christianity has failed utterly to correct them.
The weaknesses of today's civilization are the weaknesses of
Christianity. We must resort to our own ingenuity and efficiency to
Why Different ?
"Mrs. Weyward, you interest me very much. But may we stay for a
time just on the personality of Christ ?" The others nodded agreement,
and Tommy continued.
"If Christ is merely a good man,
He is no different from, say, a saint; for saints are good men, too.
But if Christ is a divine person, He is essentially different from man;
for His personality is that of a personal God, while ours is a human
one. Christ and I differ in personality. Like me, He had a human
nature. The fact that He is God makes Him very different. A God can
demand service of His creatures. It is up to them to learn what that
service is; and the giving of service according as it is demanded of
them constitutes their religion.
"If I believe
the truths that He has revealed to me, I am said to have faith. If I
observe the rules He has laid down for my conduct, I am said to be
moral, How do I know what I am to believe and do ? Why, I
study the teachings of Christ. I study His teachings rather than any
others, because of His personality, which He has proved to be divine.
He has proved that He is God."
Exit Aunt Emily
"It is all a
great problem, I'm sure," Emily said, with a sigh.
"Please let me interrupt this discussion
and get you to luncheon." Jane was speaking. "It is late now, and the
cook will be serving us notice if we delay further. We can talk after
Mrs. Weyward had an early
appointment to keep and could not stay.
indebted to you for a most interesting morning. I am sorry to leave,
but we will try to arrange a similar meeting soon. I am pleased to have
met you." She threw a pleased smile over towards Tommy and turned from
"Say, Emily, tell Fred to come out
one of these nights." The doctor had almost forgotten his promise.
"Thank you, doctor. I know he will be glad to come."
She was gone to her car.
"She's always in a rush,
Tommy. Now she will be off to some fool committee. Well, what do you
say to a little appetizer ?"
A Mystery Indeed
After a late
lunch the three were toying with a very friable cake and puddling with
their coffee in small cups and saucers. Jane teed off the conversation
with a fine drive straight down the fairway.
"Do you really think, Tommy,
that Christ was God? Just think what an awfully large thing that is -
God Himself. It is hard to believe,"
"It is too wonderful to understand. The
more one thinks about it, the more wonderful it becomes. It
is a mystery, this life of Jesus Christ. A divine person
living an earthly life ! We cannot fathom it. But the fact is there,
and honest thinkers must face the truth."
The doctor passed cigarettes about, but
preferred a cigar for himself. Jane's interest in the person of Christ
was like a revelation to him. He had known her a long time. He knew her
temper. He had never suspected this of her.
The Story of Doubt
"I had my proper religious training," she went
on. "I learned my Bible stories in our Sunday - school classes. How
sweet I was, in my white frock and white hair - ribbons, holding
devoutly my picture card of the Good Shepherd awarded me for attention,
attendance and deportment !
"But when I got into high school, I was
taken up with other interests. There were parties and puppy loves. One
forgot about the soul as the root of personality. The milliner, the
tailor, the hairdresser made us attractive personalities, and we were
happy to wear them everywhere.
"Then Daddy sent me down East to college. If I
had any religion left when I arrived there, it certainly didn't last
long. We had famous professors; and since they didn't think much about
God, we didn't see any need to stress the point. Whenever mention was
made of God, it came wrapped up in a sneer or tucked in a joke that
made us laugh. God did not amount to much. The literature teachers were
forever praising realism and begging us to live our full lives.
Self-expression was a slogan. Failure was the test of life. Christ was
considered an eminent example of how not to do things. So
there you are, Tommy. You say that Christ is God, that we cannot ignore
Him, and that we must follow His teachings."
The doctor looked his
interest. He did not say anything. A slow flow
of light blue smoke curled up from his lips.
Tommy rubbed the ash from
his cigarette against the side of his coffee cup. "I can show you from
the Bible that Christ lived as God. Have you got a Bible
The only copy that could be found was a copy
of the small Gideon. It was one of the war editions that the doctor had
picked up during his service in the medical corps. Jane was a trifle
embarrassed in offering it to Tommy. Many pages had been
torn from it, and this hardly spoke of becoming reverence for the holy
book; and besides it was a Protestant version.
"Oh, fine, Jane,"
Tommy commented. "This will do very well. I want to select some of the
sayings of Christ that show that He spoke with divine authority:
'Because I am God I can dictate laws to you and give you a knowledge of
truths that are veiled to you.' Observe how He does this."
Acts of a God
He opened the book at the fifth chapter
of Matthew and read the twenty-first verse: "You all have heard that it
was said of them of old, 'Thou shalt not kill'; and whosoever shall
kill shall be in danger of the judgement. But I say unto you that every
one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgement."
And in verse twenty-seven he read, " 'Ye shall not commit
adultery'. But I say unto you that every one that looks on a woman to
lust after her has committed adultery with her in his heart."
"It is not my intention to read the
Commandments to you, but I want you to note the words 'But I say unto
you.' The Jews knew that God had given the Ten Commandments to Moses.
Now, note what Christ is doing here in His sermon on the mount. He is
changing the commandment of God somewhat, and He is doing it on His own
authority. 'Of old it was so and so, but now I make it this
and this.' He is speaking as God did with divine authority.
And the Jews knew this.
"Another case we have here in the ninth
chapter, beginning with the second verse. 'And behold, they brought to
him a man sick of the palsy. " Son, be of good cheer; your sins are
forgiven." ' Now, every Jewish boy and girl knew that God
alone could forgive man's sins. And yet Christ said this man's sins
were forgiven. Again He speaks as God does, for to absolve sins is to
exercise divine power.
"One more example. In the sixteenth chapter,
verse the twenty-seventh, we read: 'For the Son of Man shall come in
the glory of His Father with His angels; and then shall He render to
every man according to his deeds.' The Jews knew that God was to pass
judgement on their lives. Christ tells them that He is this judge.
Certainly He says He is God, for only God uses divine power without
restriction. Now I will read a verse or two where He comes out straight
with the answer, 'Yes, I am God.' "
Tommy looked up for a question or
a difficulty, but as the doctor and Jane seemed very much interested
and said nothing, he continued.
Claims of a God
"In the twenty-sixth chapter, verse the
sixty-third, we have the following: 'And the high priest said unto
Him," I adjure you, by the living God; that you tell us whether you art
the Christ, the Son of God". Jesus said unto him, "You have said it.
Nevertheless I say unto you, henceforth you all shall see the Son of
Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of
heaven". Then the high priest rent his garments, saying, "He has spoken
blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses ? Behold,
now you all have heard the blasphemy. What think ye
?" They answered and said," He is worthy of death. " '
There is nothing indefinite about this question and its answer. Christ
unmistakably said that He was God." The doctor lifted his head and blew
a thin blue line of smoke towards the ceiling. His eyes were meditative
behind the half-closed eyelids. Jane and Tommy watched him, for it was
quite evident that he had something to say.
Why Son of God?
"How can you put it as you do, that Christ
unmistakably said He was God, when He really said He was the Son of God
? We were taught that as soon as we were baptized we became thereby
sons of God and that Christ was our brother - that He was the first son
of God in this sense. Do I make myself clear to you ? He was the first
to experience that close intimacy with the Father, so that the Father
could say to Him : "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well
"That isn't what the high priest meant when he
put the question," Tommy answered. "He knew that Christ claimed to be
God, that He claimed to preach with divine authority, and that He
performed miracles to prove His divinity. And so, when he addressed the
question to Christ, he meant, in plain, blunt words, 'Are you
God?' His judgement is a proof of this. '
"You have heard the blasphemy. What think you ?" And they
said, "He is worthy of death." ' Well, if it had been a question of a
mere moral union - an adoptive sonship - there would have been no
reason for the charge of blasphemy.
"Although Christ is often called the Son of
God," Tommy continued, "one must not be led into thinking that He is
not God. He Himself said, 'I and the Father are one.' St. John refers
to Christ as the Word of God. In the first verse of his Gospel he
writes: 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and
the Word was God.' Christ is the natural Son of the Father, for
in putting on our human nature He did not lose anything that He was. He
remained a divine person - the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity,
the eternal Son of the eternal Father. What we are discussing is
whether or not Christ is really this divine person. We have seen that
He speaks with divine authority and, under a solemn oath administered
by the highest Jewish tribunal, declares that He is that person - the
Son of God.
The Just Man
"But is Christ worthy of our faith? We have
considered that He said, 'I am the Son of God.' Should we believe Him ?
I answer that we must, for His holiness is a guaranty of His words.
"Judas, His daily companion, proclaims
Him a just man. The traitor would have snatched at anything to condone
his disloyalty. Any fault in his Master's words or actions could have
saved him. 'I have sinned in betraying innocent blood,' he cried in his
testimony to the priests of the Temple.
"Pilate, His judge, after listening to all the testimony
that the Jews could produce, said, `I find no fault in Him.' "
"There is no flaw in the perfection of His
moral teaching, and His conduct is faultless. He said that not the act
alone, but the mere looking at a woman to lust after her, constitutes
adultery. Not the outside, but the inside, of the cup and platter forms
the test of moral spotlessness. If Jesus had been guilty of the
slightest sinful fault, His disciples, who were with Him continually,
would not have believed in Him.
"He proclaims Himself without sin. 'He that is
without sin among you, let Him throw the first stone at her,' He says
to other men. But speaking of Himself, He hurls at the Jews, who
searched His life with their merciless eyes, the unheard of challenge:
'Which of you shall convince me of sin ?' This is unassailable virtue.
He has a horror of deceit. He denounces ruthlessly the hypocrisy of the
Pharisees (whited sepulchres). He scourges the merchants out of the
Temple. He is all loyalty, all truth.
"The more saintly a man is, the more conscious
is he of his own defects. Christ would have been the first to lament
His own weakness. He asks forgiveness for His executioners and, facing
death, none for Himself.
Death for Truth
"Could anyone hesitate to believe Him when
with impressive calm he declares Himself God, though knowing that He is
thereby condemning Himself to death? Death is a great test
for truth. No man is anxious to die for a lie.
The danger is that he might lie to save his life. But Christ is
truthful in the face of an awful death, the most humiliating of all
deaths, crucifixion. There a man does not lie.
"There is one truth that Christ teaches
over and over again. It is the lesson of His life. Throw out this
truth, and the life of Christ is meaningless. It was the burden of the
persistent statement, 'I am the Son of God. ' "
"Is there anybody home ?" The
smooth, rich voice of the doctor's wife preceded her into the room.
"Well, what a funny how-do-you-do
this is !"
The room was filled with tobacco smoke that all but
blotted up the weak light of the late and very dull afternoon.
"Oh, hello !" the doctor
greeted his wife. "What time is it ?"
In a moment they were all talking at once. In
another they were deeply interested in the unwrapping of Mrs. Weyward's
bridge prize. All the chirp of small talk that had made the bridge
party a twittering success lived again. And the notable play of the
afternoon had been made from a perfect bridge hand.
"Imagine thirteen spades in one deal !"
"That's a mighty nice punch
"Please do not start talking nonsense. This is
a scallop dish for cracked ice."
"Who got the thirteen spades, mother ?"
"You will be surprised to know, but not any
more than I was. I almost collapsed. I became so hot and nervous ! I
uncovered the cards, spade after spade, and I had them all ! I was so
weak I almost dropped them ."
"Oh, you dear old dear !" Jane
jumped into her mother's embrace and they waltzed about the room,
hugging each other. "I'm so happy, mother!"
After a bit mother stopped the jubilee to make
arrangements for dinner. The doctor went down on his hands and knees at
the fireplace and tried to breathe life into the indifferent embers.
Jane turned on a few floor lamps. Tommy helped the doctor get the fire
going. Then chairs were drawn up to the warmth of the fresh fire.
"Go on, Tommy, and finish up. We have a quorum
again. I really must get this matter decided now, for I want to know
whether I am to take up my prayers again tonight or not."
"Let me put in a question," said Jane to
Tommy. "There has not been anything said about miracles. I remember now
of hearing at college that Christ proved His divinity by working
miracles. But we were taught that miracles were plain impossible. And
for that reason Christ could never prove that He was God. What do you
think about that, Tommy?"
"Well, Jane," Tommy began,
"take this bridge hand - your mother's perfect bridge hand. Do you
think the cards were stacked ?"
course not. Mother is not clever enough to stack cards. Anyway, no
woman would take a chance on fixing the cards."
"So you would say the thirteen spades
came just by luck ?"
"What do you think, doctor, would
have happened if on the next deal your wife had had another perfect
"Oh, Tommy, I should be rather slow to predict
anything about women's behaviour in such an event; but I am sure that,
if nothing did happen, there would be a terrible lot of unpleasant
thinking going on."
"And then let us say that on the
third deal she again held those thirteen spades. What then
certainly. All would scream at once that the game was crooked. There
would be an end to the game, and the start of a wonderful scandal."
"That's about what I would expect, too. People
are patient enough to accept chance occasionally. But if the unusual
occurs repeatedly, they demand an explanation and refuse to have
anything to do with the possibilities of chance as a probable solution.
"It's the same with the miracles of Christ.
Hour after hour and day after day the wonders of His power are
manifested. Chance, as an explanation, is absolutely out of the
question. The only way to look into the matter is to take Christ at His
word. He said He was God. What is more natural than for Him to act as
God? He had to prove that He was God. If He acted merely as man, all
His kindness, goodness, and so on would not have won for Him any higher
distinction than what is common to the greatest saints. He had recourse
to His omnipotence, and by using this control over the physical laws He
showed most conclusively that He was more than man.
Beyond Human Power
"You perhaps have heard it said that miracles
cannot be, because the physical laws are so fixed that they cannot be
tampered with. Consider for a moment the heads of our great
corporations. They made the rules that guide the actions of their
employees. And they demand that these rules and regulations of policy
be obeyed. But this does not mean that the heads themselves cannot
shift their rules and change their policies."
" Of course not. "
"It is the same with God and His
universe. He very wisely set the business of creation going with all
the precision of a fine watch, but He did not by any means get Himself
tied to His own machinery. It is absurd to think that He is dependent
upon the creature of His handicraft. And when the laws of the universe
do not observe their customary rhythm, it is a sure sign that God is at
the controls, for no other power can interfere with them.
"To cure the blind by the application of a
little mud moistened with spittle is an achievement that no doctor can
imitate. A mere word to the sick and the crippled, the diseased and the
insane, and they were made whole. Dead people returned to life at His
command. Men cannot command life. It is very hard to fool stout
fishermen who can tell a storm from a calm. There were no strings to
pull, or black cloths to hide, or dark rooms to conceal when Christ
opened eyes blind from birth, made decaying bodies snap into living
men, or brought sudden peace to a stormy sea.
"Now (and this is the point), Christ refers to
His miracles as proofs of His divinity. To show that He is God He does
the works that God alone can do. The people behold the wonders. They
know these wonders back up His teachings. They believe on account of
them. Therefore, I say the responsibility of God is involved.
"Since God could not lend His aid to a liar or
to a blasphemer (one claiming to be God when he is not) without people
accepting untruth in His divine name. He could not permit the miracles
to take place. But it was to approve the teaching of Jesus Christ that
the miracles were performed. Therefore God the Father set His approval
on Christ's teaching. The miracles are Christ's divine credentials to
show that what He says is true: 'I am God.' What room is there for
doubt ? One miracle would be enough to prove Him God. Christ worked
thousands. Therefore He is God.
The Great Proof
"Now, Jane, let us apply all this to one of
His miracles. It will serve as well as taking five or six. And since
His resurrection is considered the greatest and the most far-reaching
of His miracles, in this that it sums up His whole scheme of salvation
in a final proof, let us consider it in detail."
Tommy flipped the pages of the sorry-looking
Gideon until they stopped at the twenty-first verse of the sixteenth
chapter of Matthew. "From that time Jesus began to show unto His
disciples that He must go unto Jerusalem and suffer many things of the
elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third
day be raised up."
"He replied to the Jews," Tommy continued,
"who asked of Him a sign confirming the authority He claimed: 'An evil
and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there shall no sign
be given it but the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah was three
days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so shall the Son of
Man be three days in the heart of the earth.'
"This was so clear that Christ's enemies
understood it. As night and the storm following the death of Christ
came down among them, they went to Pilate and told him how they
remembered that while Christ was still alive He had said that after
three days He would rise again. 'Command, therefore, the sepulchre to
be guarded until the third day, lest perhaps His disciples come and
steal Him away and say unto the people, 'He is risen from the dead',
and the last error will be worse than the first.' His resurrection was
to be final proof of His divinity.
"This rising from the dead was so marvellous
that even His apostles dared not believe this promise, daily comrades
of His though they were, who had seen the workings of His
power. 'What could this mean ?' they debated among
themselves. The sad story of their unbelief began with the capture of
the Master in the garden. In fear they ran and hid themselves in the
Cenacle. Some of His disciples fled in despair to Emmaus. His friends
among the women carried spices to the tomb for the embalming of His
"And yet, after the Resurrection they all
testified that Jesus fulfilled His prophecy in Himself.
really died is proved by the witness of His executioners, men
thoroughly experienced in this sort of thing. And yet, one of them
opened His side with a spear, a very helpful bit of precaution so far
as this argument is concerned. St. John, who was there, saw the soldier
"Then, too, common sense says that Christ
really died. He was in torture for fifteen hours. The loss of blood
during the scourging and crowning with thorns and the three hours on
the Cross, and at the final spear thrust - why, this shows death a
hundred times over."
Seen by Thousands
"Therefore, He truly rose. For many witnesses
saw Him living again - not one poor, nervous sick woman, but a great
number of men and women; not once only, but frequently over a period of
forty days. Briefly they were: the women who went to the tomb to
complete the burial rites; the apostles Peter, James, Thomas, the whole
group gathered in the Cenacle; the disciples on their way to Emmaus;
the five hundred witnesses of Tiberias; and many others.
"I shall hurry though these points in order to
be done with this argument by dinner time. Now, it cannot be said that
these people had seen a ghost or a phantom of some sort. For Jesus
spoke to them and reassured them: 'It is I. Fear not.' He ate with
them. He prepared a breakfast for them in the clear light of the
morning on the banks of Gennesaret. He made them touch His Body. 'See
My hands and feet, that it is I Myself. Handle and see.' And as one of
them was still in doubt: 'Put in your finger hither, and see My hands;
and bring hither your hand, and put it in My side.' It is the same test
that proves that we are alive and are what we are, living men.
"Moreover, the tomb was found empty on
the third day. The seal of dread Rome was on it. This seal was
sufficient to protect the tomb against violation. The Jewish seal also
was on it - the seal of the temple that was holy. It was sacrilegious
to break it. Roman soldiers guarded; the Roman soldiers did not sleep.
Yet the tomb was empty on the third day.
Who Could Have Stolen?
"For the sake of argument let us say that the
Body of Christ had been stolen. Who could have taken it? Certainly not
the Jews themselves; for they were the ones who wanted it safe in the
sepulchre and had the precautions taken to insure that it would not be
stolen. How joyously they would have dashed to that tomb and exhibited
the Body and proved to the Christians that Christ had not risen from
the dead. The Body was their evidence; and it could never have been
"The disciples could not have taken the
Body. As they tell it to their own confusion, they were in hiding out
of fear of the Jews. When the threatening mob circled about their
Master in Gethsemane their hearts and their courage failed them, and
soon they were flying down the hillside. Slipping furtively from shadow
to shadow, they made for the Cenacle. The moon spilled a white-gold
wash upon the town, but the apostles entertained themselves with the
mysteries of the darkened places, quaking in fright. They were still in
hiding when the news of the resurrection first reached them.
"The holy women would not have gone out early
on the morning following the Sabbath with spices for Christ's Body if
the disciples had removed it. If any of their friends had been out to
the sepulchre, the news of the Roman guard stationed about it would
have been known to them. And yet the women only worry about the
difficulty of removing the stone from the entrance of the tomb. They
never dreamed of the far greater difficulty of breaking through the
Roman and Jewish seals and of dealing with the stern, unbending
discipline of Rome. This doesn't show much for the stealing charge.
"If the disciples had stolen the Body of
Christ, there would be no story about their slowness to believe that
Christ had risen. Nor would they have ever allowed themselves to be put
to death rather than not announce the resurrection. So that just about
takes care of the thieving question.
"Sometimes one hears of an eccentric saying
that the Apostles were the victims of a collective hallucination. But
such a one forgets that these men were sailors and fishermen,
out-of-door, robust fellows. Their testimony is so varied, so often
repeated, so precise and coherent that collective hallucination is out
of the question. Victims of hallucination ? These stout men so deeply
depressed, men whose broken moral courage was so suddenly enlarged and
overwhelmed ? Not a chance. Common sense says that it is
better to admit that their testimony is true and irrefutable.
"The people to whom these Gospels were
read knew the writers; knew the Man they wrote about; knew His
teachings and His life's work. None of them protested, neither His
friends nor His enemies. The heretics argued with the Christians, using
the same versions of the sacred texts. If there had been any doubt
about them, they would have destroyed them and all discussion together.
All knew that the story was true.
"The Apostles were not fools. St.
Peter says that if Christ is not risen from the dead Christianity is a
vain thing. With Pascal I think we can accept their testimony; it is
not hard to believe witnesses who die for their testimony. With these
dying men we can and must say that Jesus Christ is God.
"Therefore, Christ is God. He has proved it."
"We are creatures of God. He gave us our life and existence from day to
day. Christ has taught us how we must spend our days. If we observe His
instructions, everything is as it should be; if we do not, He says we
are to blame and must face the consequences.
"So no one can ignore Christ. Everyone
that hears of Christ must consider who He is. Each person must decide
whether he is to follow His divine will or not. That decision will be
the story of his life; other accounts of great feats, of great
successes, of great philantrophies, or of whatever else do not enter
into the real life. Christ says that He will judge all men at the end
of time and his test of life will be found in the answer to the
question, 'Have you done the Will of God'?"
Tommy stopped speaking. The three were
silent. Mrs. Weyward found them still meditative when she joined their
company. She was very happy. Her picture and the story of her play at
bridge were to appear in the morning Pioneer Press. Her presence woke
them up to the immediate things of life. It was time for dinner. Tommy
leaped up from his chair.
"I must get home," he said. "I've been
hanging about here all day. Mother will be having the guards drag the
lake for me. I'll be seeing you, Jane. Say
about nine? Let's sail to Wildwood tonight. Pick up some
friends for the ride. Goodbye, doctor. Thank you very much for the
interesting discussion." Tommy was gone in a moment.
"Great fellow, Jane.
Clever. Got a good start in life and all that. I'd keep an
eye upon him if I were you. Well, I think I'll be looking myself up a
bit of an appetizer."
Jane stood by the window. The wind was still steady. But she was not
thinking of the sail to the dance at Wildwood.
Nihil Obstat: Bernard O'Connor, Diocesan Censor
Imprimatur : D . MANNIX,
Archbishop Melbourne 5th July 1960