Point of renewal

HOW we long for the right vantage point for surveying our own and the world's troubled scenes, an eminence such as Jesus of Nazareth found on the Mount of Olives before his last free entry into Jerusalem. Such a pause was not unusual. Many travelers in that day stayed the night on Olivet outside the old city, which was not always safe to enter after dark. Jerusalem's tensions then are not unfamiliar to us now. The city reflected all the political pressures and frustrations of Roman occupation, as discussed in the column opposite.

Jesus' approach to the city on what has become known as Palm Sunday, the sorrowful Last Supper in a site that now stands outside the old city's walls, his betrayal by a kiss in Gethsemane, the steep walk up into the city, Golgotha, the crucifixion, interment -- all of this seemed a surrendering of the safe, detached worldly vantage point of the Mount of Olives, a humiliating narrowing of options down to the humanly hopeless vantage point of the tomb.

And yet there was the resurrection, in three days' time.

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Do we today attempt to survey our troubled scenes -- not just Middle East strife, but superpower conflict, the aspirations of suppressed peoples in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the challenges of hunger and job loss, or even the conflict that comes from material excess and turmoil in our private lives -- from an eminence that inevitably still shares the material, emotional conditions that are the vehicle for that strife?

If Easter is a symbol of renewal, do we have the right idea of the basis of that renewal? Pagan symbols of springtime are frequently associated with Easter, as with other religious and even political celebrations. But again, the material connotations of nature's renewal fail to approximate the resurrection which Jesus achieved, which was a demonstration of man's true spiritual existence.

``I can of mine own self do nothing.'' Jesus' words and selfless acts evidence the humility, the confidence in spiritual power and not worldly elevation, from which we can all best address mankind's and our own deepest needs.

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