Elie Wiesel, the Transylvanian-born Jewish-American writer and Holocaust survivor, wrote a moving book called Night about his personal experience in a Nazi death camp during World War Two. While at Auschwitz, his inmate number, “A-7713”, was tattooed onto his left arm. The book has an introduction by the great French novelist – a devout Catholic – François Mauriac, who met Wiesel after the war and heard from him of the horror of his experience. Not surprisingly, perhaps, his suffering had led to a complete loss of faith in God. Mauriac was moved to write:
And I, who believe that God is love, what answer could I give …. What did I say to him? Did I speak of that other Israeli, his brother, who may have resembled him – the Crucified, whose Cross had conquered the world. Did I affirm that the stumbling block to his faith was the cornerstone of mine …. ?
He could not say these things because they would have found no resonance in the soul of this tortured Jew.
We do not know the worth of a single drop of blood, one single tear. All is grace. If the Eternal is the Eternal, the last word for each one of us belongs to Him. This is what I should have told this Jewish child. But I could only embrace him, weeping.
Mauriac’s experience of the Cross bore no comparison with Wiesel’s living experience; but in that moment, when he embraced the tortured Jew there was a meeting point – perhaps not of faith, at that moment, but of common humanity entwined in love. It was in that embrace that Mauriac preached Christ Crucified, whether he realized or not that he was doing so. And whether Elie Wiesel recognized it or not, it was at that moment that he saw Jesus. At the heart of the Cross is a gigantic statement from God of the immensity of his love for each one of us, a love so intense that it burns up all that is not love in our world and in ourselves.