The Sunday lectionary in recent weeks features Jesus foretelling His Passion in the Gospel of Mark. Evidently, all the references to crosses and suffering servants proved too tempting for Xavier University’s resident heretic Ken Overberg, S.J., who once more uses the readings to deny the Atonement, i.e., the doctrine that Jesus died for our sins, from the lectern at Bellarmine Chapel:
Before we hear God’s word, it may be helpful to recall that we don’t have to believe that God sent Jesus to suffer for us. His early followers had to deal with the fact of his terrible execution. Like many of us when we face suffering, they asked WHY? So they searched their Scriptures to find light to help interpret their experience.
In the Psalms, in the Suffering Servant passages, and in other texts of the Hebrew Scriptures they did find passages that colored and shaped their own stories (as in today’s gospel). Not all interpretation, however, and certainly not all pieties have faithfully reflected the God revealed by Jesus. This God is a God of life and love, of compassion and justice and nonviolence. In no way could this God demand the suffering, torture and death of Jesus. The Powers did that – and still do. Faithful disciples face the cross in the dramatic and in the ordinary. The God of Jesus surely does not desire this, but instead leads us as individuals and as community in resisting evil.
Here is the paragraph in the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that puts the lie to Overberg’s repeated denials:
118. Why was the death of Jesus part of God’s plan?
To reconcile to himself all who were destined to die because of sin God took the loving initiative of sending his Son that he might give himself up for sinners. Proclaimed in the Old Testament, especially as the sacrifice of the Suffering Servant, the death of Jesus came about “in accordance with the Scriptures”.