Friday, April 14, 2017

"Not everyone can carry the weight of the world"

Far from not posting a traditio today, Good Friday is a day that positively screams out for one! Since I didn't post anything on Holy Thursday, I think it's okay to post twice on Good Friday. I can't think of a better song than REM's "Talk About the Passion" off their 1983 album Murmur. Before cutting to the chase, I want to share something I read last night while keeping vigil in our parish's Chapel of Repose. It is from a book I highly recommend for prayer and reflection: Owen Cummings' The Dying of Jesus.

In particular, the passage comes from Cummings' reflection on the Fourth of Jesus' Seven Last Words as he hung dying on the cross. This "word" is taken from St. Mark's Gospel (15:34)- Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?, or, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Of course, these are the opening words of Psalm 22. Pressing forward a little from Christ's intelligible cry, Owen moves forward a few verses, to the words "Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last" (Mark 15:37), writing: "Mark's Jesus dies in agony with a wordless cry." Citing John Barton, he points out that, unlike the other Evangelists, "Mark does nothing to relieve the 'unadorned brutality' of the death of Jesus."

Crucifixion, by Bartolomé Estebán Murillo, ca. 1675

Here is what I found particularly valuable:
God did not predetermine that Jesus would have to suffer on the cross, just as God does not predetermine that any of us has to suffer on our own crosses. That would turn God into a cruel tyrant [and us into something like marionettes acting out a script]. What God did in the whole event of Jesus, in the incarnation and crucifixion, was to enter into the messy details of our world, a world marked by arbitrariness and unpredictability. The God who is nothing but unconditional Love, embodied and made visible in Jesus, lets the consequences of being Love in our flawed human world happen without evasion or avoidance. He did not turn away from pain and suffering. Perhaps we could say that through Jesus, pain and suffering are absorbed into the life of God, and, if absorbed, then finally transformed
I find this valuable because, to state the matter indelicately, it calls bullshit on all Christians who seek to dismiss suffering as part of some grand plan to which we are not privy and, once we are, it will all make sense. Concretely, this results in the uttering of worse-than-useless pious platitudes in the face of someone else's suffering. When I think about these matters, these lyrics from Rich Mullins' song "Hard to Get" come to mind:
And I know you bore our sorrows
And I know you feel our pain
And I know it would not hurt any less
Even if it could be explained

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