A certain misconception can, I think, creep into our minds around Easter time. In this glorious season, with alleluias abounding, we rejoice that the ancient record of our sinfulness has been wiped clean, that the prison-bars of death have been broken, and that Christ, coming back from death’s domain, has shed his peaceful light on humanity. In short, life is good, and it is life that has been restored to us by him who submitted himself to death but could not be bound by it. He died an earthly death that we might be spared from a spiritual one. He bore the weight of our sins to free us from them. He suffered so that we don’t have to. Or did he?
When Socrates had received his sentence, he stood up to address the assembly for the last time. He predicted that those who had convicted him would incur a bad reputation. To the Western mind, that’s putting it mildly: as an account of martyrdom for the sake of truth, the Apology of Socrates is second only to the Passion of the Christ. But Socrates hasn’t pleased everyone: Nietzsche had his doubts, and, what’s more, some museum-goers in Chicago are positively unimpressed.
I will admit that when I first heard that Pope Benedict XVI was joining the tweeting masses, I felt like Nathaniel in the Gospel of John: “Twitter? Can anything good come out of Twitter?” Why, I wondered, was the Holy Father persuaded to join the endlessly vapid, emotionally incontinent primal scream that passes for our global online discourse? Does this mean that every Fr. Tom, Dick, and Harry will feel compelled to contribute to our national attention deficit disorder with homilettes in 140 characters or less? Heaven forfend.