First, Catherine and I want to make it clear that we are not gloating over the suffering caused by the earthquake in China. We will ask our local Catholic Priest to offer a special prayer for the earthquake victims at mass next Sunday.
But that throws all the recent babble about the “sacred” Olympic torch and Jin Jing the “angel” into clearer perspective, doesn’t it.
For all of the Chinese PR babble about the “sacred” torch and Jin Jing the “angel”, how many victims of the earthquake are now taking the slightest bit of comfort, consolation or spiritual sustenance from contemplating the Olympic Torch?
All it takes is a reminder of the essential human conditions of vulernability, suffering and death, for false idols like the Olympic Torch to be revealed as deaf, dumb, mute and impotent gods, powerless to inspire faith, hope or charity.
Meanwhile the truly sacred symbols of the Buddha, the Koran and the Cross of Christ continue to inspire those three “great things that last” – faith, hope, and charity – among the Chinese believers in those true faiths, in ways the Communist Party is revealed, once again, to be impotent to do.
True, neither the Buddha nor the Koran nor the Cross of Christ could prevent the earthquake. But the spiritual power in those truly sacred symbols is the power to inspire transcendence of suffering and death, a power which does not reside in the “sacred” torch or in its corporate sponsors. Call the Christian eucharist (the consecrated bread and wine, the “body and blood” of Christ) a superstition if you will, but those who believe in it are sustained mentally, spiritually – and thereby even medically, to some extent – by its symbolism of transcendence of suffering and mortality. The same will never be true of Coca Cola, and Lenovo’s computers will never inspire righteous moral struggle in the way the Holy Koran does.