Transforming the Agony of the World

Transforming the Agony of the World

Jesus on the cross is a powerful symbol of the agony of the world: the suffering of women in restrictive cultures, the suffering of children forced to become child soldiers, child prostitutes or child laborers, the suffering of men working in appalling conditions; the suffering of animals raised in inhumane conditions. The Catholic theologian Elizabeth Johnson relates the passion of Christ to ecological challenges, saying, “It is as though the planet were undergoing its agony in the garden, and we, the disciples of Jesus, are curled up fast asleep.”

It is a great symbol because of the Christian conviction that it is not just another victim hanging on the cross, but the Son of God. Because Jesus was the incarnation of the transcendent God, his suffering makes the agony of the world a sacred question, a cosmic issue, something worth grieving over, paying attention to, challenging and remedying. The crucifixion of Jesus transforms the agony of the world into a challenge. When we witness suffering of any form, we are confronted with a choice, the choice between callousness and compassion, between apathy and empathy.

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