Father Rutler is Pastor of the Church of Saint Michael in New York City. He is the author of twenty-five books and many essays, and has lectured widely at home and abroad.
Ralph Waldo Emerson had moments more perceptive than his vague religiosity: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” He spoke not of consistency itself, but of a “foolish” consistency. As True God and True Man, Christ was perfectly consistent, but from the platform of a fallen world, that consistency could seem inconsistent.
Consider how reluctant he was to let his divinity be known. He spoke of it cryptically in the synagogue at Nazareth, but insinuated enough to enrage his neighbors. Then he went into hiding. When he healed the leprous and blind, he ordered them sternly to tell no one. When he cured the paralytic at the Siloam Pool, he slipped into the shadows of the Temple like a fugitive. And he sternly ordered Peter and James and John not to reveal what they had seen on the mountain.
Was it inconsistent then that he made a spectacle of himself when he entered Jerusalem? It was a flagrant publicity stunt, encouraging the cheers of children who enjoyed a good show: with a theatrical entrance foolish enough for some to mock him with a crown of thorns, and shocking enough for others to cut his nerves with nails on a cross. If he was so reticent, why did he suddenly burst into the city in a way that seemed to some like a circus come to town, and to others like an anarchist about to blow everything up?
God is not inconsistent to those who listen carefully: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). With a consistency more perfect than human consistency, because it is from outside time, the hour of which he spoke at the Wedding in Cana had come, and the only clock that could measure it was his Love. His human will dreaded that hour, but his divine will embraced it, and in that valiant act, the selfish pride that brought sin and death in the world was confused, confounded, and ultimately washed away in blood.
Jesus said that if the children singing to him were silenced, “the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40). Here in our neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen, the great glass skyscrapers now rising all around may seem indifferent, but the energy and skill that are building them cry out in testimony to God who gave life and intelligence. Dante read over the gates of Hell: Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate—“Abandon all hope, you who enter here.” By entering the gates of Jerusalem, Christ opened the gates of Heaven where hope is fulfilled. That is God’s perfect consistency. “Lift up your heads, O gates! And belifted up, O ancient doors! That the King of glory may come in” (Psalm 24:7).
Faithfully Yours in Christ,
Fr. George W. Rutler