A pigeon flies over Notre Dame cathedral, in Paris, Friday, April 19, 2019. File photo: Thibault Camus/AP Photo.
French President Emmanuel Macron, in his response to the devastating fire that destroyed the timber roof of the 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral, vowed: “We will rebuild Notre Dame even more beautifully and I want it to be completed in five years, we can do it.”

Perhaps unwittingly, Macron echoed the words of Jesus: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”. 

Unwittingly or not, he most certainly galvanised the emotions that flooded the heart of our global humanity as we watched as the smoke of the fire shrouded the Parisian sky.

Within hours, an amount of more than e750 million was declared, including a patriotic pledge of e500m from three deep-pocketed French families.

With the opportunistic disposition of Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku, cathedral deans and pastors of cash-strapped congregations watched and pondered.

Hints of the Easter message surfaced in Macron’s address to the French people: “It’s up to us to convert this disaster into an opportunity to come together, having deeply reflected on what we have been and what we have to be, and become better than we are.”

Our own cathedral’s Palm Sunday Mass procession began in the Company’s Garden and on our way to the cathedral we passed the Arch for Arch. 

This monument celebrates the prophetic witness of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Its locale symbolically marks a particular rendezvous of the regrets of history with the aspirations of the present.

The houses of Parliament and the Slave Lodge, tucked between the religious vestiges of our colonial past, the Groote Kerk of the Reformed Church and St George’s Cathedral, represent a bonded relationship and the necessary conversations required of our respective institutions.

We are all mandated, whether by credal statements or party policy, to become our better selves. To make the world a better place, especially for the poor and vulnerable. St Paul expresses our conflicted nature in this regard.

The challenge is what to do: “What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing.”

This is so evident in the prevalent temptations in organised power - that which contours the patriarchal nature of much of institutionalised faith and its business, and party-political counterpart in the rest of society.

The three-hour vigil of the Good Friday service focuses on the systemic execution of Jesus at the gallows outside Jerusalem, the city which kills “the prophets and stone those sent to it”.

His wounded flesh and broken limbs present him, says the Franciscan priest, Father Richard Rohr, “as the fully innocent one who was condemned by the highest authorities of both ‘church and state’ (Jerusalem and Rome)”. 

Rohr casts the mission and rationale for the ministry of Jesus in the magnified light of selfless and divine love: “He did not come to change God’s mind about us. It did not need changing.

“Jesus came to change our minds about God - and about ourselves - and about where goodness and evil really lie”.

The fire at Notre Dame and our response speaks of how we save what we love and cherish that which represents our better selves.

A colleague, writing from Zurich, is at peace with the French people, and others, donating of their wealth to the restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral.

It provides, he argues, an example of the importance of history in relation to a sense of place and the significance of cultural instructions.

“Cultural institutions” should be owned by broad communities - whether this be the three black churches in the Deep South of the US that were recently razed, or the NGKerk on the West Coast that recently burnt, or the Herstigte Kerk in Pretoria that was recently vandalised by protesters from Gomorrah.

There is though, a j’accuse aspect to all of this. The pre-resurrection tomb remains closed when we shed our tears and share our purse towards the restoration of The Lady of Paris, while we are silent and aloof about the treasures of God: the poor crucified on the cross of opulence in our midst, and frugal about the fiscal and material needs of national signs of hope in our land.

May we, on this Easter Day, intentionally seek to find each other and do our utmost to see the risen Christ in our different selves.

* Weeder is the dean of St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Weekend Argus