Fulfilling the Scriptures: The Fatality of Love

During earlier phases of the dark night, one may be overwhelmed by the urge to do something, to break out of the box in which one is being constrained.

That’s what Saint Peter does during the great Night of the Passion, in Gethsemane, when Jesus is being seized: he defends the Lord with force, cutting off an ear of the high priest’s slave.

But Jesus reproves Peter:

“‘Put your sword back into its place, for all who take the sword will die by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?’” (Matthew 26:52-54)

When we are being squeezed without relief, by great powers of darkness, we may think that either the Father cannot help us, for whatever reason, or that He does not mean to help us—the classic theodicy dilemma: either God is good, or He is powerful, but it seems He can’t be both.

Well, Jesus makes clear that His Father does not lack power. IF the Father had wanted it to be so, He could have destroyed the world with a massive angelic army to extract His Son. The Father really could miraculously extract you from your darkness.

But then the Father’s goodness is attested: the “fulfillment of Scripture” means the carrying-out of the Father’s plan of loving goodness—innocent enduring for the sake of the salvation of the world. That is what’s encoded in the Old Testament: election means suffering on behalf of the world. The more patiently, the better.

(Peter acts out here what he verbally performed in Matthew 16:21-23, when he tries to talk Jesus out of suffering and dying: “From that time on, Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me, for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”)

I think we do always have the option of dropping out of the great trials of the dark night, but the cost is abstracting oneself from the particular interventions of grace: you may swing the sword, but then you’re stuck playing the power-games of the world. In that case, you’re on your own.

The alternative is to submit your will to the wise and loving will of the Father: “it must happen in this way.” It’s very painful, and you will sweat blood. But you will come to see that it was all for the best—for you, for everyone. The chalice of bitterest alienation becomes a wedding cup.