In the pain, misfortune, oppression, and death of the people, God is silent. God is silent on the cross, in the crucified. And this silence is God’s word, God’s cry. In solidarity, God speaks the language of love. Amen.
(Jon Sobrino, El Salvador)
Why does God not save Jesus or any other righteous martyr for justice and compassion? Is it will, or powerlessness, or a greater pain…or freedom? I think that if we are not free, cannot choose, then all action is ultimately futile. If Jesus’ resurrection is a guarantee, there really is no sacrifice. If everything is following some terrifying plan of salvation through violence, then how does Jesus’ message of compassion and forgiveness fit?
Or perhaps the future really is open. Perhaps we really are creating it either within or without the spirit of the divine. I wish God could send a prayer into every heart on the same night. That prayer would be, as God addresses us: “I am not in charge; you are. I put before you life and death; choose wisely.” It seems to me that the actions of Jesus, especially as we read about them in Holy Week, speak to salvation through freedom, and death through imprisoned thinking. Even after the resurrection, it takes the disciples some time to readjust to the life Jesus is offering to them through himself.
What we would prefer to this radical thinking is for God to just tell us what to do and then we could ignore it or refute it. But that is not the mystery of God. The mystery of the divine is that we are welcomed to become aware of the presence that is within and around us, and yet yields us our freedom. We want God to save us from trouble but leave us alone when we are the trouble makers to ourselves or others. But the Holy One will not save us from life, or from struggle.
At the death bed of Bede Griffiths, a Benedictine monk, his friend Andrew Harvey saw him sit straight up in bed and shout several times, “Serve the growing Christ.” What is Christianity for? Is it our personal ticket to heaven? Is it an exclusive club of myth managers? Or is it a deep truth about what humanity could be, if we could only acknowledge the holiness in all? Everyone does not have to become a Christian, but Christians must remember the silence of God as we clothe the world, as we wash feet, as we think about each other with compassion and forgiveness. The teaching that we have inherited does not require speech but modelling. We have a story to live and sometimes a death to die that will bring hope and healing. Like God, we must be silent and not tell, not be dominating the experience of others, but listening and weeping with our sisters and brothers.
Turn away or turn to the cross, that complex symbol of opposites held in dynamic tension, but the cross remains. Life and death, struggle and peace, we are either working at the salvation of the world or its destruction. Freedom demands choice. There are no abstentions in life. If the suffering of Jesus means anything at all to us, then we must be vigilant to oppose all crucifixions, all suffocations of hope.
With Mary, we stand at the foot of the cross with our aching hearts, in the face of the silence of God trusting that the Holy One abides in us. All the wounds, all the tears are captured and offered in the cup of compassion and commitment to follow Jesus into uncertainty, risk, and loss.
But we know the rest of the story too. We know that death is the womb of new life; that change from one step to the next is the process by which the whole world may become the glory we glimpsed in Jesus. St Paul says, “I tell you a secret. We shall all be changed.” Let us open ourselves to freedom, to crucifixion of everything that stands between us and the loving silence of the One who knows us all by name.
Moya Cannon: “Dark Spring”
(from Oar, Salmon Publishing, Bridge Mills, Galway, Ireland. 1994.)
The birds shouted in the empty trees
When, in the bone the dark cracked,
With so little sound,
Almost no sound, we did not hear it,
But, incredulous, saw in our grief,
The dark birds falling out of every tree
And after the birds the falling dead, dark leaves.
Oh, we wept, we were not told,
We were not led to expect,
Back when the thin bone knit to close the sky,
Inside the skull-cave when we etched our myths
And later made our compacts with the ogre
We had no thought of this,
Nor could we have schooled our hearts for this
Fair head, so vivid, in the loose, wet earth.
In your death, we are twice lost , twice bereaved,
All our compacts now dissolved,
We are so unexpectedly mortal.
Yet even as we leave you
The sun flies down
To strike the dark hills green,
Defiant, it drives the pulse of summer
Through this most desolate spring.