I recently went on a mission trip with some college students to Moore, Oklahoma. We spent the week building fences for people whose homes had been destroyed as the result of an F5 tornado in May of 2013. We were there a week before the one-year anniversary of that devastating storm. Many things that week made a strong impression on me, but the biggest impression came in an unexpected moment.
“God is dead.” I know some of us, if not all, have heard this saying. What does it mean? It began with the philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, in a book called Thus Spoke Zarathustra. In a section in that book, a mad man/prophet runs through a town telling them why God is dead. The conclusion is that we have killed him because we have a lukewarm faith. The only reason we go to Mass or service is to mourn the passing of God. The minister has been reduced to a funeral director in remembering this dead god.
Jesus, it seems, had mixed feelings towards the world. He loved the world, laid down his life for it, and challenged us to love the world, even as he criticized it harshly and stated clearly that it was opposed to him.
For a moment during the second day of our mission trip to Moore, Oklahoma it felt like we were in the novel, Holes, by Louis Sachar, in which the protagonists, Stanley Yelnats and Zero, are forced to dig holes at camp in order to build “character.”
“Lord, have mercy!” It’s an expression I’ve heard occasionally, used as a mild oath. And yes — mild though it may be, it’s a sin against the Second Commandment about taking the name of the Lord in vain. But as a kid, I heard it from adults all the time, and didn’t think anything of it.