Lent 2017: Good Friday
IV Jesus meets His Mother
This darker path into the heart of pain
Was also hers whose love enfolded him
In flesh and wove him in her womb. Again
The sword is piercing. She, who cradled him
And gentled and protected her young son
Must stand and watch the cruelty that mars
Her maiden making. Waves of pain that stun
And sicken pass across his face and hers
As their eyes meet. Now she enfolds the world
He loves in prayer; the mothers of the disappeared
Who know her pain, all bodies bowed and curled
In desperation on this road of tears,
All the grief-stricken in their last despair,
Are folded in the mantle of her prayer.
Today is Good Friday, a day I used to dread. A day for more guilt, for thinking about how I myself put Jesus up on the cross. What a weird thing to think as a child, to consider how my fears and wonderings and sense of needing protection could be construed as sin. Not like all children are angels, but our mistakes are probably not what Jesus was thinking about while he was killed by the state and the religious men, sure of their own rightness.
My husband is an abuse survivor. So many of our friends and neighbors come from backgrounds rife with trauma and suffering. Do they need to sit quietly and consider their sins, consider how the blood of Jesus is on their hands? Or do they look up and see someone who suffered just as completely as they did, someone who was betrayed by the people who claimed to love God so much?
I myself have not been burned up by the world, by abuse and trauma and suffering. I live shoulder-to-shoulder with it, however, and lately this has been on my mind. I have been in a bit of a slump. I have started to feel like all of the world's needs are on my shoulders. So many unique individuals with so many complex situations and problems are shared with me, week by week. I cannot solve any of it. I can’t help my neighbors and I can’t help my country and I can’t help the countries who are being bombed by my people. I can’t help someone who is trying very hard to graduate high school or someone who wishes desperately they could attend their sister’s wedding half a banned country away. I can’t help find a good job that won’t hurt your back terribly, I can’t create legal pathway to citizenship when they simply don’t exist.
I think about all the things I cannot do, constantly. And every once in awhile, something comes across my path that perhaps I can do. Perhaps there are ways to be a stick in the spokes of the wheels of injustice. Perhaps there is a way to get involved in politics, neighborhood associations, city planning meetings, PTA’s. But all of this takes so much time, it is so much work, I don’t know what I am doing, I want other people to do it for me so I can support them. I have been feeling sorry for myself, is what I am trying to say.
Recently I read a quote by Albert Schweitzer. “Only a person who feels his preference to be a matter of course, not something out of the ordinary, and who has no thought to heroism but only of a duty undertaken with sober enthusiasm, is capable of being the sort of spiritual pioneer the world needs” This hit me in the guts, because I am finding the need to get over myself. I want so badly to share my unique neighborhood, our blessings and challenges, the minutia of my life, what makes it so different and hard and good. I guess I am back to fighting with my old nemesis, my white savior complex, which I believe is something I will struggle with the rest of my life. But instead of trying to be a spiritual pioneer, I feel the deep need to see those that are already around me, and pray for more to join the ranks.
Today, on good friday, there are so many wars rippling under the surface. In the days to come, there will be need more pressing than ever for spiritual pioneers who hold fast to the beliefs that every human being is made in the image of God, and that the only path Jesus has made for us is one of nonviolent resistance rooted in self-sacrificial love. We must be anti-war, anti-death, anti-terrorism, anti-greed, anti-white supremacy, anti-nationalism. We must see how closely aligned we are with those who are being bombed or gassed, how we are all equally beloved children of God.
This Lent I chose to immerse myself in the stories of my undocumented neighbors. I learned more about their suffering than perhaps I would have liked, because it revealed truths about my country and my own complacency that are so hard to reconcile. But through these stories my heart has cracked open wider. I always like to say I discovered God through my neighbors, and this is still certainly true. The spiritual pioneers our country desperately needs are already here, in the immigrant communities that serve us as a country. They are suffering, just like Jesus, under an unjust system. And yet they still believe, still have hope, still persevere.
Even though it is a day that is supposed to make me sad, I am already on the other side of good Friday. I already see how once you have had parts of yourself killed off, how this day is more about solidarity, about the most glorious picture of a God who loves and suffers with us. Today, on good Friday, I feel a weight being taken off my shoulders. Because I believe it. I believe in this great love which descends into hell and liberates the prisoners, which sees all and which will redeem the world. I believe in it not in spite of being close to suffering but because of it.
Forgive me this little sermon. It is always hardest to write about the things that are closest to our hearts. I think I am trying to say thank you. Thank you to Jesus, my bruised and battered brother. Thank you to my neighbors, especially those who are undocumented, for your example to me. Thank you to you, my readers, for joining in.
May you be blessed today, may we all be enfolded into the love of God.