I had a close encounter with Indiana Jones a few months back, and today I find it teaching me a bit of something about hope.
Well, not the actual Indiana Jones (which would be quite a trick, since “Indy” doesn’t actually exist – except as a product of George Lucas’ and Steven Spielberg’s fertile imaginations.
But they say that the movie character was inspired by real archeologists connected to the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.
Acquisitive guys, those professors. Spend a little time wandering through the OI (as Gerri and I did last fall), and you can’t help but be impressed by the ancient cultural treasures they’ve uncovered and then put on display at the museum.
One of my favorite pieces was the lamassu – not inaccurately described as a “human-headed winged bull.” It’s an impressive sculpture, standing about 16 feet tall, and weighing nearly 40 tons. And it dates to the Neo-Assyrian period (about 715 BCE), a kingdom and culture that once flourished in the territory we know today as Iraq
The lamassu guarded the Throneroom of king Sargon II, and I can well imagine that back in the day, the king and his subjects took a fair measure of comfort in the statue. After all, you don’t bother creating such incredible works of art…unless you’re sitting pretty. You’ve got some impressive wealth to draw on, and probably a powerful army or two to protect those stockpiles.
And with all that going on, it’s also likely you never saw the end coming. You probably couldn’t imagine a world without the king, or the Throneroom, or the lamassu guarding it.
Even so, it did in fact all come tumbling down. (Quite literally. The OI museum label notes that the lamassu sculpture “was well preserved, having fallen face down on the pavement and then being covered with debris of the falling building.”)
Lately, I’ve been thinking about lamassu every time I hear somebody opine about when we’ll “get back to normal” following the pandemic. Like everyone who utters the phrase, I too hope it’s “soon.” But lamassu reminds me there’s really no guarantee of that – at least, no assurance in anything fashioned by human hands. Our wealth, our institutions, our medicine, our science, our endowments, our armies, our culture – none of that can ultimately provide a source of hope.
So why then am I smiling?
Well, it’s the Easter season, you see. And I’ve been given a gift in Jesus – a gift in Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection.
I can keep moving forward in hope, thanks to that gift. And I’m reminded of this fact by the words we’ll hear proclaimed at Mass on Sunday – from St. Peter, another guy who once saw his entire world threatened with destruction:
…conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning, realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct…not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ. [The Lamb] was known before the foundation of the world but revealed in the final time for you, who through him believe in God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
So yes, I can proclaim hope. And I can do so because Christ is risen – he is risen, indeed! Amen, Alleluia!
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.