Tag Archives: Rene Girard

Becoming a Person

Icon of Jesus and Pontius Pilate

11th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday (Year II)

I Kings 21:1-16, Matthew 5:38-42

Humans are the oddest creatures on the planet. The account of Naboth’s stoning is odd from beginning to end.  

King Ahab tried to strike a deal with his neighbor Naboth to acquire his vineyard, which was next to his palace. He was refused and went home dejected. Ahab lived in splendor. Why did he need to increase his property?

Jezebel assumed that a potentate has the right to take the property of another. Might makes right. Her spiritual discernment was dulled to the point of insensitivity by layers of power politics, materialism, and brutality. With impunity she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, and he didn’t even bother to inquire about her specific plans. From wallowing in self-pity to being led along by Jezebel in her schemes, Ahab proved himself utterly passive and languid.

Naboth’s fellow citizens were exceedingly odd. A letter arriving with Ahab’s seal directing them to “get two scoundrels” to falsely accuse Naboth and stone him to death was carried out without a single voice of protest.

The same mob mentality that crucified Christ was at work in these false accusations. The same absence of personal consciousness animated the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, and other mob atrocities. Countless rulers in history have waged war to seize territories not their own, or increase their wealth beyond rational limits. Something deeply irrational lies at the root of these destructive behaviors.

In mass scapegoating, advertising, and other instances of artificially manufactured desires, humans behave almost as automatons—following the lead of another, and another, until collective desire reaches such a pitch as to become unstoppable.

The revelation of the Trinity liberates persons from the cage of relativity in which individuals look to the left and right to get their cues for how to think and behave. Humans are imitative, according to one theory (René Girard’s mimetic theory). Copycat behavior stems from a lack of  interiority and conviction.

An anthropology based on the Trinity offers the richest and most satisfying solution to the collective ills of humanity. The absolute diversity of persons in Trinitarian communion satisfies the innate desire to possess or be, singly or uniquely. The desire of individuals to stand out or possess “more than” someone else (envy) is quelled by the truth that each and every person is unique and unrepeatable. Persons transcend relativity by the very fact of absolute diversification.

At the same time, the absolute identity of persons in communion, in which the whole, deified human nature is possessed by each, satisfies the innate desire to be complete in every way. 

Envy was the sin identified by Jesus and even Pontius Pilate as the chief motivation for the mob crucifixion of Christ. The final end of the Cross is life in the Trinity. For that life, we must die to our individual selves and selfish desires and become whole persons animated by the Holy Spirit. Spirit-filled persons do not look to the left or right for their moral compass, but are guided from within, by the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father.

The revolutionary teaching of Christ to “offer no resistance to one who is evil” radically subverts individual, self-protecting instincts. Risky, to be sure, but love is the ultimate risk. The Son of God staked everything for love of us to bring us home to the Father. We are free to accept or reject that love.