Winnipeg Free Press is reporting that suspended Archbishop Seraphim of Canada will stand trial for sexual abuse. Mike McIntyre of the Free Press reports:
“A high-ranking former orthodox archbishop has been ordered to stand trial on historical Manitoba sex-abuse charges.
Seraphim Storheim appeared in a Winnipeg courtroom Wednesday for the conclusion of a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for the case to proceed. A court-ordered ban prevents specific details from being published.
Provincial court Judge Rocky Pollack ruled the Crown had met the standard of proof required to move the case along. The case will return to court in March for the setting of a trial date.
Storheim has pleaded not guilty to sexually abusing two teenaged boys while he was a priest in Winnipeg 30 years ago. He remains free on bail with several conditions, including having no contact with children.”
Sometimes when we focus so carefully on each detail of a Gospel story, especially to glean every literal detail from it, we can lose sight of a bigger picture that is also present in the Gospel. It is a matter of not being able to see the forest because of the trees.
For example in the Gospel of Mark there is a theme of the “secret messiah” – Jesus does not want people to proclaim who He is (see for example Mark 1:25 and 1:44). And yet at every turn in the Gospel, Mark is presenting to us the answer to the question, “Who is Jesus?” (See for example Mark 1:24, 2:7, 4:41). In fact, Mark 8:27-29 in which Jesus asks the question, “Who do people say I am?”, seems to be a crucial point to which the Gospel narrative has been moving all along.
Who is Jesus that he can heal the sick, cast out demons, feed the masses, calm the storm, and speak with the wisdom of God? These are questions that are being asked throughout the Gospel, yet Mark tells us from the very first verse who Jesus is: the Messiah, the Son of God. Mark doesn’t keep the secret from the readers – it is only the people in the Gospel narrative, the ones living with Christ, who are having a difficult time figuring out who Jesus is. [Note that within his Gospel Mark sees all of this misunderstanding as in fact fulfilling Old Testament prophecies. In Mark 4:12 Jesus warns about those who see yet don’t perceive…]
Mark’s Gospel is in fact the evidence for his thesis that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God. Yet Mark as storyteller presents through his narrative the slow revelation of who Jesus is. Mark’s method of presenting the Gospel in this way makes for an interesting weaving between storytelling and theology.
Mark has told us the readers who Jesus is and continues to prove his point through the stories he tells. Yet the characters in the stories often are not able to understand the fullness of the truth that Mark is making so obvious to us his readers. We the readers of (or listeners to) the Gospel have an advantage that the original disciples did not! The “secret” is really something the characters in the story are experiencing, but we the readers of Mark’s Gospel are not suffering this same disadvantage.
The disciples themselves are confused and don’t fully understand the Messiah, though Peter does confess Jesus as one point, but then so did some demons. We who are not able to be there to witness Christ personally, however, have great advantage over those who were there – Mark is helping us to see, perceive, hear and understand who Jesus is.
I would also like to suggest that if we stepped back even further from the Gospel of Mark and considered the entirety of the Scriptures, we would recognize the question about identity playing itself out in Moses life, when he encounters the burning bush from which God speaks. Moses wants to know who the Lord is – what is His Name? Then when Moses goes to Egypt, Pharoah too wants to know who Moses is and who is this God he represents because Pharoah who is considered a god, has never heard of this “new” God.
The question “Who are you?” is central to the Exodus story, and Pharoah and his army are in darkness because they refuse to accept the answer Moses offers and proves through the plagues/miracles he performs. When we read Mark’s Gospel, we are reminded to think back to the Exodus to another time in which the miracles of God were witnessed, yet not understood. God is working out His salvation in Jesus Christ, will we see light or darkness in Christ’s activities? It depends upon whom we think Jesus is.
But it is not only God’s enemies who don’t really understand who the Lord is. In Deuteronomy 29:1-9, it is the Israelites themselves who Moses claims don’t have the eyes to see or the mind to understand the basic truth about God though they have witnessed His miracles through the Passover/Exodus events. This is the same charge that the prophet Ezekiel brings against the house of Israel (Ezekiel 12:1-2). These are words and charges that Jesus brings against the people of Israel in his own day, and even against His own disciples (Mark 8:16-21, see also John 12:40).
Basically, the Scriptures present to us that everyone sees the same reality, but not everyone understands what they see. In Exodus, there was a cloud between Israel and the Egyptians. They are both looking at the same event, and yet for one, the Jews, it is a guiding light while to the other, the Egyptians, it is darkness. This idea of encountering the same reality from God yet seeing it so differently is described well in the Wisdom of Solomon commenting on the Exodus experience:
For the whole world was illumined with bright light and embraced unhindered works, while over those men alone heavy night was spread, an image of darkness that was about to receive them; but they were heavier than darkness to themselves. Light Shines on Israel. But for Your holy ones there was a very great light. Their enemies heard their voice but did not see their form; and they considered them blessed because they had also not suffered, for Your holy ones did not harm those Who previously wronged them. So they were thankful and begged for grace for being at variance with them. Therefore You provided a flaming pillar of fire as a guide for their unknown journey, and a harmless sun for their glorious exile. For their enemies deserved to be deprived of light and imprisoned in darkness, those who imprisoned Your children, through whom the incorruptible light of the law Was to be given to the world. (Wisdom of Solomon 17:19-18:4, OSB)
Mark gives us an advantage that those who actually witnessed the life of Christ didn’t have. They were often not thinking about the Messiah when they saw Jesus, especially if He didn’t fit their preconceptions about the Messiah. It is the old adage that miracles will not help the non-believer come to faith. You have to believe in God to witness a miracle. Miracles are for believers, not the unbelievers. Our task as Christians is to help people believe so that they too can see Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God.
Certainly the Gospel writers suggest to us that actually being present with Christ at the time He walked on earth was not a total advantage in recognizing Jesus as Messiah. We actually have advantages that the original disciples did not – we know the Gospel story, where it is headed, what will happen, we know 2000 years later that people in fact did believe in Christ and have tried to follow Him. We know of His resurrection and glorification. We glorify Him ourselves.