By Deacon Derick Cranston
The masked gunman knew the name of his target but was not sure what the target looked like. When he stormed the bus, he asked for her by name and shot 15-year-old Malala Yousafza three times: once in the head, once in the neck and once in the shoulder. What type of threat could this teenage girl possibly present that caused an assassin to brazenly shoot her in broad daylight? She advocated for the right of girls to receive an education.
How could the right to an education pose such a menace? How could those in power feel so threatened, that they resorted to attempting to assassinate a 5-foot-2-inch, 120-pound girl who simply advocated education? Because education encourages thought and thought gives life to ideas, and ideas have great power. Ideas can transform the world and make it a better place.
Several times in the Gospels Jesus is referred to as rabbi or teacher. We see it in passages such as “All the people were coming to Him and He sat down and began to teach them” (John 8:2); “…the crowds were amazed at His teaching” (Matthew 7:28); “…and He was teaching them many things” (Mark 4:2). But perhaps the greatest lesson that Christ taught us was on the cross at Calvary, the lesson of love.
A scholar was once asked why he thought so many historical works of art depicted the crucifixion. His reply: “Because it is the most beautiful image ever in human history.” How can something as gruesome as the crucifixion be considered beautiful? It is considered beautiful because it depicts God made man willing to endure great and horrible suffering out of love. Love is the theme of poetry, art and music. There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for the one you love.
Love has the power to transform something ugly and vicious into something beautiful. We see this in fairy tales such as Beauty and the Beast, and the frog who was turned into a prince when he was kissed by a beautiful lady. Jesus’ death on the cross is the most powerful and beautiful expression of love in human history because it transformed the brutal ugliness of human sin into the Resurrection and the life of the world to come.
Malala’s story did not end on that hot and dusty day in Pakistan when she was brutally shot in cold blood. Malala miraculously survived and now travels the world telling her story, inspiring and empowering girls and women across the globe. At age 17, she became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and one of only a handful of women to do so. Out of the adversity and horrors of violence and terrorism, an international movement for change was born. Something beautiful has come out of something ugly and vicious.
Let us take to heart the lesson Christ taught us on the cross at Calvary. Embrace the Lord and know that pain and anguish can give birth to the most beautiful kind of love, a love like no other. Rejoice and be glad, because suffering does not have the last word but in the end will be conquered by love.
(Deacon Cranston is pastoral associate for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)