Don’t cry for me

Friday, July 5, 2013 — Week of Proper 8, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 972)

Psalms 140, 142 (morning) // 141, 143:1-11(12) (evening)

1 Samuel 13:19-14:15

Acts 9:1-9

Luke 23:26-31

In today’s gospel, Jesus undermines several centuries’ worth of piety. Prayers, paintings, sculptures and songs have all tried to spur worshippers to grieve Christ’s crucifixion. Yet Christ instructs the daughters of Jerusalem, “do not weep for me.” Instead, they should weep for themselves and for their children, and for the human suffering that Jesus foresees will last far beyond his own death.

Jesus again deflects attention from his own suffering in his encounter with Saul in our second reading. When Saul asks who he is, the risen Christ responds, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Not Jesus who was crucified in the recent past, but Jesus who gives voice and visibility to the persecuted in Saul’s present moment.

Both of these readings ask us to respond to Christ’s suffering in practical rather than pious ways. In the gospel, Jesus invites us to face our own experiences of oppression and the potentially calamitous future of our children. Jesus asks, “if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” This question is enigmatic, but it seems like Jesus is asking, “If we live in a world where crucifixion happens, what innovations in human suffering will come next?” We can bear the witness of our weeping to whatever form that suffering takes in our own age.

Another way to respond to Christ’s suffering is to recognize, like Saul, the ways that we persecute. Our own patterns of persecution may not be as drastic as Saul’s, who approved of Stephen’s stoning, launched a campaign of dragging “followers of the Way” from their homes, and asked to pursue those who had scattered. When Saul sets out for Damascus, he is “still breathing threats and murder.”

If we are less blatant than Saul in attacking a target population, our work may be more complex. Still, it may be no less painful and disorienting for us than it was for Saul to confront our own privileges, prejudices, and impulses to aggression and violence. Like Saul, we may need to have a face-to-face encounter with someone who has experienced persecution. Also like Saul, we may need to be led by the hand rather than trusting our own familiar ways of seeing the world. Our goal is to discover Christ’s self-revelation in the persecuted, and to expose our own complicity in persecution.

Of course, Christ’s instructions and self-revelation are personal to his audiences—whether the daughters of Jerusalem or the persecutor Saul. The response that Christ seeks from each of us may be something entirely different. More than likely, though, that response will have something to do with encountering Christ in the personhood of all persecuted people in our own day.

If we must weep for Christ, may we weep for all victims of the empires and prejudices of this world and in future generations, including ourselves. If we must gaze at representations of Christ on the cross, may we also see him in all persecuted people, including those who confront us with our own blinding complicity in the rejection and deprivation of others.

Inspired as a child by Maria Von Trapp, Luke Skywalker, and Jesus, Lora Walsh strives for wisdom, justice, and a simpler way.  She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas

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