March 9, 2017 Comments Off on The Third Station: Jesus Falls the First Time
Recently a wise person gave me advice about writing an application essay: When describing significant issues or struggles, “move quickly to the resolution.” Don’t dwell too long on what has been painful or limiting for you, without putting it in the context of present health and strength.
While this is helpful advice for framing a journey to wholeness, it occurs to me that sometimes we tend to live by it in other moments. We sit with a friend sharing their pain and struggle, and it’s hard to know what to say. We are quick to offer advice. In our discomfort, we turn to reassurances that can grate in the thick of illness, loss, or transition: Be thankful for what you still have, or, God must have given you this struggle for a reason. It is uncomfortable to look directly at pain, our own and certainly others’. It can be uncomfortable to keep listening with full openness, not only for a whole conversation but sometimes over weeks, months, or years.
The passion narrative is practice for this kind of discomfort. It is the kind of story that Jesus’ friends and family must have found hard to talk about. It is hard to remember even now, looking directly at the pain of someone we love deeply. Exhausted and injured, Jesus fell under the weight of the cross. He would get up and continue under that weight. The road was still much longer.
This morning immigrant rights leader and New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC Executive Director Ravi Ragbir faced an ICE check-in and the possibility of immediate deportation or detention. He was accompanied by a crowd of supporters, people who love him and believe in his work. Ravi emerged from the check-in, and there was a collective sense of relief. Yet a month from now, he will be required to re-appear. This morning was part of a much longer road, marked by uncertainty, anxiety, and at times, pain. As Ravi makes us aware, many other undocumented people are on this same road.
In Jesus, we are not alone in struggle, even when it doesn’t move quickly to resolution. God does not turn away from our struggle or our pain, even when we are at our most broken, furthest from health and strength and even from God. God does not turn away from us when the news makes us afraid that we or people we love will be deported, or alternatively, when it forces us to look directly at injustice for which we share responsibility. Instead, God walks with us, bearing our burdens and strengthening us to bear each other’s burdens.
– Aaron Miner
March 20, 2014 Comments Off on The Third Station: The Cross is Laid on Simon of Cyrene
I wanted to pause and meditate for a moment on the meaning of this famous scene, of Simon the Cyrene carrying Jesus’s cross. I think it’s really significant that we get this picture not just of Jesus’s sacrifice, not just of his kenosis or pouring out, but of being supported by another. Even though this is something that the Roman soldiers imposed, I feel that our imitation of Christ should not only be in self-sacrifice, but maybe also in receiving the sacrifice of another. In allowing some burdens to be borne for us by our sisters of brothers in Christ, it reminds us of our dependence, not just on each other, but ultimately I think it reminds us of our dependence upon God. Christ didn’t do it on his own; why on earth do we think that we should?
This is why Paul will can say to the Galatians, “Bear each other’s burdens, and in this way fulfill the law of Christ.” Paul makes the fulfillment of the law of Christ contingent upon mutuality between self and other. Contrary to the law of nature, where self-preservation is the governing concern, relationality in the mystical body of Christ functions through selflessness. To bear one another’s burdens builds community. And, you know, there’s something about bearing a burden for someone else that makes it feel less heavy. It’s like it feels lighter than if it were my own.
This law is a constant check on human instinct, which is always bubbling up: the instinct to self-preservation. To bear the burdens of another, and to allow an other to bear one’s own burdens, demands a decrease in selfishness and an increase in humility. It’s an acting out of these two virtues, and what they say is true, if all else fails, fake it till you make it…. In helping somebody else who has a need, automatically I become less obsessed with my problems, less absorbed in my stuff, in my hurt. By the same token, allowing myself to accept help from another instantaneously creates in me a feeling of humility.
Under the law of Christ, it’s no longer that, in order to get something, one must take. That is the old law, and the law of Rome. To be members of the mystical body of Christ means that in order to get, one must give. And what one gets is access to life in the Spirit, and freedom from hierarchical relationships and the violence inherent in them.
I think part of what Jesus means when he invites believers to take up his yoke is exactly this, to help carry someone else’s cross for a while, and to allow others to do the same for you.
– Atticus Zavaletta