In Love in Holy Week

As you can probably tell from my lack of posts, this Lenten season has not been a particularly devout one for me. The week before Lent was a blur after Molly’s surgery and Ash Wednesday coincided with her re-admittance to the hospital. The day made no impression on me until late that evening when a hospital chaplain stopped by and offered to pray with us and offer us ashes. Tim and I accepted gratefully, but when Molly indicated she wanted them, I almost knocked the bowl from the chaplain’s hands. Something deep inside me was repulsed by the thought of marking the body of my suffering child with a sign of her mortality. It seemed morbid and inappropriate, but I let it pass and it did Molly no harm. Still, it wasn’t an auspicious beginning to the season.

The next day, however, something my former pastor Nancy Corran preached to our community came back to me. She said, “If your life is a Lent this year, if you are suffering in a desert already – physically, mentally, emotionally, financially – whatever it is, don’t feel like you have to pile more on. Let your life be your Lent and let God Love you through it.” Those were some of the most profound and compassionate words I had ever heard a priest say, but the privilege of my life had always precluded me from taking her up on her offer. This year, however, I decided it was time. My life was Lent enough.

But Holy Week is here and Molly is back at school. She hardly needs any medication and can manage most things on her own. If you weren’t watching closely, you’d never know she was six weeks out from surgery. And so I began to wonder what I had learned during my “life as Lent” experiment. Jesus’ forty days in the desert showed us that a Lenten practice isn’t about a transaction to be completed, but a transformation to be undergone. He went in to the desert a newly baptized man, but emerged a man on a mission. What about me?

While there were no great changes of heart, my sense of mission has deepened this Lent. More than ever, Love is the ground from which I want to ”live and move and have my being.”

Last night, I read the Passion account from the Gospel of Mark and I was struck by the fact that the word “Love” is never mentioned. 1 John 16 may remind us that “God so Loved the world…” but in the eye witness accounts, Love fades away. Instead, fear, betrayal, pain, cruelty, guilt, and abandonment each take their starring turn. Love may be the motivation for Jesus’ actions, but it’s never explicitly stated and if there is one thing I have learned from all my years of study, it’s that we can’t see what we aren’t told to look for and through it all, Love is what we should be looking for. Any time I see a story about Jesus where Love is not mentioned, I know it’s not the whole story and I have to look again. God is Love and so for Jesus to be unloving, or unmotivated by Love was not possible.

Love is what sent Jesus out of the desert ready to serve humanity: Love of God, Love of self, Love of neighbor. They were all one in his heart and mind and it is that Love, that deep internal knowing of perfect relationship that allowed him to walk through the desperate time we call Holy Week. Jesus’ Love is what makes it holy, because he was wholly committed to Loving us and showing us what Divine Love looks like.

This week, it’s so easy to fall into the pattern of worshipping Jesus, for who he was and what he did. But he didn’t ask us to worship him; he asked us to follow him. He didn’t want admirers; he wanted disciples, women and men who were willing to do what he did, however imperfectly, (because that’s the only way we do can anything). Perfection is the enemy of the good and that was never something Jesus wanted to get in our way. We just have to read the post-Resurrection accounts to see that’s true.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t tell the painful and tragic story of Jesus’ death on the cross. I’m not saying we shouldn’t acknowledge our own culpability in his death and ask for forgiveness. I am saying that maybe we could use this Holy Week to try to Love as Jesus did.

On Holy Thursday, how can we humble ourselves before our friends and family as a sign of our Love for them?

On Good Friday, how can we allow ourselves to not need to be right, or defend our positions and reputations?

On Holy Saturday, how can we rest and just let things be as they imperfectly are, instead of rushing to make everything all right already?

On Easter Sunday and every day after, how can we celebrate the truth that death is not the end of the story and that Love conquers all?

Today, I’ll be washing feet. Tomorrow, I’ll be shutting up. Saturday, I’ll be unproductive and Sunday, I will be smiling and singing Alleluia. I hope you’ll join me.

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Here are some of the other posts I’ve written about Lent and Holy Week in year’s past.

“So Long Sad Lent”

“Rethinking Lent”

“The Day Before the Bad Day” 

“It’s Holy Week in Belgium” 

 

Where Does it Hurt? Everywhere.

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Three days ago, on June 10, deeply saddened by all the pain I saw around me, I posted this on Facebook.

So much pain in the world these days – over the last couple weeks.

The continued migrant drownings

The 19 women burned alive by ISIS for refusing to become sex slaves 

The Stanford rapist sentence and what it reveals about the travesty of our justice system – especially for women and minorities 

The political race/system in the US, which is about to get even uglier

 And yet, this poem by Wendell Berry has given me hope today.

 Hate has no world.

The people of hate must try

to possess the world of Love,

for it is the only world;

it is Heaven and Earth.

But as lonely, eager hate

possesses it, it disappears;

it never did exist,

and hate must seek another

world that Love has made.

With optimism, I wrote,

Let’s keep making the world of Love – again and again and again.

Yesterday, after the Orlando shooting, I was less hopeful, at least momentarily. When I first heard, I went numb with shock, then every cell in my body started to hurt. We were in the car and Tim pulled over so he could comfort me, while I cried myself out in the passenger seat.

 
We sat there together, holding hands, and I tried to believe Berry’s words – the ones I had posted just 48 hours earlier. But this time, I couldn’t stop thinking of Warsan Shire’s poem, “What They Did Yesterday Afternoon.”

later that night

i held an atlas in my lap

ran my fingers across the whole world

and whispered

where does it hurt?

it answered

everywhere

everywhere

everywhere.

I felt that in my body, in my heart and mind.

It hurt everywhere and I kept thinking, “What can I do? What can we possibly do to make a difference?”

Yesterday, for a moment, I forgot the answer.

Today, despite my grief, I know.

If it hurts everywhere, then it means that we have to BE everywhere.

We who believe in LOVE – of every gender, culture, nationality, religion, belief system, political party, orientation – We have to LIVE everywhere, WORK everywhere, HEAL everywhere, LOVE everywhere. This is our task.

There is no backing down to hate. This is no time to fight fire with fire – to join it with our own version of the same.

This is the time for the kind of Love that Krista Tippett calls “muscular, resilient,” instead of the watered-down version we’ve been taught to pursue, dependent on our feelings, eroticized, romanticized, limited to personal agendas, and over-attached to its own happiness.

This is time to embrace what Rilke taught:

“It is good to Love – Love being difficult. Love is perhaps the most difficult task given us, the most extreme, the final proof and text, for which all other work is only preparation.”

This is our time and this is our task – to Love everywhere – more deeply, more actively, more faithfully (which is to say when we are full of doubt), more vocally and consciously. Whatever it means to you, wherever you are, Love someone today.

If you haven’t been deeply disturbed by the tragic news of the past weeks, then you haven’t been paying attention. Or perhaps, you do not yet know that we are, in fact, all connected. In every one of these news items, I saw myself, my child, my family. I grieved for them, as I would grieve for my own, if not in degree, then at least in kind.

  • The continued migrant drownings

(my ancestors who crossed the Atlantic to come here)

  • The 19 women burned alive by ISIS for refusing to become sex slaves

(my 14-year-old daughter)

  • The Stanford rapist sentence and what it reveals about the travesty of our justice system – especially for women and minorities

(myself and all the times I drank too much in my younger years, and, if I’m completely honest, my young, white, athletic son, who knows and is and Loves  so much better and yet, at 17, still has so much more to learn)

  • The political race/system in the US, which is about to get even uglier

(my neighbors and friends with whom I avoid political and religious discussions)

  • The shooting in Orlando and the threat on the Pride parade in Los Angeles

(our gay daughter, friends and family members)

If our Love is muscular enough, there is no pain in the world we cannot connect to and carry with those who are directly affected. It doesn’t mean we have to fix it, but the least we can do is acknowledge it, which will hopefully inspire us to do more.