Wednesday, 12 April 2017

No Leap-frogging over Holy Week to Easter

from Google Images

Herbie O’Driscoll told us many years ago, “The Resurrection isn’t just about an empty tomb 2,000 years ago. Resurrection is NOW! NOW! NOW!”

So also: “Good Friday isn’t just about Jesus on a cross 2,000 years ago. Good Friday is about Jesus on a cross NOW! NOW! NOW!

Where is Jesus suffering and dying today?

I don't 'like' Holy Week. I don't like suffering - my own or anyone else's. So, who does? It still feels kind of wrong - even heretical? - to say I don't like Holy Week. And yet ... understanding Good Friday as also happening today helps me live it ...

Sunday, we celebrated the Sunday of the Passion, aka Palm Sunday. "All glory, laud and honour to thee, Redeemer King, to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring ..." we sang as we processed from the hall with our blessed palms into our little church. 

Hosanna! I thought hosanna just was a way of shouting praise - which it also is - but apparently it actually means something more like, "Lord, save us! Lord, rescue us!" Hmmm... that puts a different spin on it. Still .. were the people shouting two thousand years ago looking to be saved from earthly oppression and injustice hoping he would overthrow the Romans and restore their country to their own people? All of them?

Lots of questions. Mystery. Wonder. Even awe. 

I read this week - I think by Frederick Buechner - about two kinds of power. That Pilate entered Jerusalem from one side of the city on a horse, with cohorts of soldiers, symbolizing earthly power - the kind the beats up on people, forcing compliance ... plenty of that about in the world today.

And on the other side of town, Jesus entered on a donkey - a symbol of another kind of power. The power of love, mercy, compassion ... of truth ... His was the power of the fool who turns the world upside down.

Saturday afternoon, I had also attended Palm Sunday Mass at Eglise St-Antoine in Vieux Longueuil. It got me pondering in new ways. About power. Mine. the Church's. About what we're looking to be saved from... while welcoming Jesus with enthusiasm. 

In order to get to Easter we can either hide out and be really busy, or live through all the questions, confusion, mystery, and suffering of Jesus - and of the world - and discover anew that true power is the power that Jesus lived out in his life, ministry, and his willingness to die rather than sell-out to the wrong kind of power. That's when the image of leap-frogging came to mind. No leap-frogging over the tough stuff to Easter -  no leap-frogging over suffering and death to resurrection.

Many years ago, I heard the story of a priest who told his congregation on Palm Sunday that if they didn't come (at a minimum) to the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services, they shouldn't come on Easter. Ummm... well, some people can't. Being unable to attend church doesn't prevent us from living Holy Week.

I miss, at times like this, the depths of Holy Week lived in a convent. I don't miss some of the theology of those days (whether taught implicitly in the religious life or learned unhealthily in my youth)... offer it up ... my suffering is nothing compared to Jesus' suffering ... I can't imagine that Jesus believes in competitive suffering. "My suffering is greater than yours." It's not a competition. Jesus is with us ... in our suffering - in the world's suffering... 

And the world's suffering is beyond heart-breaking. 

Our liturgy on Good Friday is, again this year, based on the Stations of the Cross. A shorter version - the Biblical stations. And Good Friday finds its meaning for me in Jesus' suffering today. So, here are some images we will use for prayer:

Children mining cobalt in DRC - from Google Images
Jesus is the children who mine cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo - cobalt to be used to make our cell phones and other electronic equipment. Pray for them. Pray for Père Laurent Somda, a priest of St. vincent de Paul, who works with these children. Pray for us that we may wake up not only to the suffering of child slaves and to our implication in situations like this.

From Amnesty International:

"Walk into any high-end phone shop and you’ll find all the hallmarks of the luxury tech market: slick surfaces, cool lines, spotless screens.

It’s a far cry from the toxic dust that children inhale as they mine the cobalt that powers the batteries we rely on for our phones and other portable electronic devices.
These child miners, some as young as seven, live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), central Africa. Given that more than half the world’s cobalt comes from the DRC, that one fifth of it is extracted by artisanal (or informal) miners, and that around 40,000 children work in southern DRC where the cobalt is mined, there’s a chance that our phones contain child labour.
Yet phone manufacturers – global brands including Apple and Samsung – won’t tell us if their cobalt supply chains are tainted by child labour. They have a responsibility to do so –to check for and address child labour in their supply chains, setting an example for the rest of the industry to follow.
We all agree that our phones are indispensable, but we can’t dispense with the rights of the men, women and children whose labour powers our phones."

Cemetery in  First Nations community in Northern Ontario.
Jesus is our Aboriginal sisters and brothers in Canada. Pray for communities like Pikangikum where 92% of the 450 homes have no water or waste-water services. Overcrowded homes, poverty, lack of community infrastructure, and soaring food costs. Where suicide rates are 36 times the national average, and Pikangikum has the highest child suicide rate in the world.

Children in southern haiti after Hurricane Matthew
Many years ago at a Christmas service at Mile End Mission, a child whose father was from haiti, looked at our Black Baby Jesus and cried out to his mother, "maman, je ne savais pas que Jésus était Haïtien!!" (translated: Mummy, I didn't know Jesus was Haitian!"

Jesus is Haitian. Haiti is forgotten as soon as another tragedy happens in the world. Pray for the resilient, courageous, and burdened people who had not recovered from the earthquake when Hurricane Matthew struck, destroying home and crops, again leaving people homeless and destitute. And still the people sing. And rebuild.

 A church bombed in Egypt on Palm Sunday - from Google Images
Jesus went to church on Palm Sunday in Egypt. At least 44 people were killed and 100+ injured in bomb attacks in two Coptic Christian churches. Pray for those traumatized by this violence, who live daily with terror and uncertainty. Help us to understand the root causes of this violence and Western implications in it. Help us to speak for justice. What would justice look like? 

Children in Somalia - from Google Images
Jesus lives in refugee camps in Africa. Jesus is starving and dying. Pray for all those affected by the drought in Africa, for refugees, for those living continually under threat of violence and death.

Farmers, traders and consumers across East and Southern Africa are feeling the impact of consecutive seasons of drought that have scorched harvests and ruined livelihoods.
The El Niño-driven crisis has increased the malnutrition rates of rural children, and driven up food prices for urban residents. Livestock deaths and fire sales have slashed the asset wealth of pastoralists, and cumulative bad harvests will make recovery all the harder for small-scale farmers.
In the worst cases, where conflict has made farming impossible and reduced humanitarian access, there will be famine. That currently applies only to South Sudan, but could also include Somalia if the emergency response falters.
What makes food price spikes all the harder to bear is that there is rarely a corresponding increase in people’s wages. And when the drought is over, prices often stay stubbornly high, note researchers Paul Adams and Edward Paice.
A number of countries wrestling with the impact of El Niño have still recorded decent macro-economic growth rates, but food price inflation means those benefits are rarely felt by ordinary citizens.
There are a number of strategies governments could adopt to address the situation: from improving the tradability of food, to coordinated climate change adaptation strategies, to meeting the African Union target of allocating 15 percent of budget spending to agriculture.
“No miraculous discoveries are required,” suggest Adams and Paice. “But the start point is recognition of the unsustainability of a relentless rise in the cost of food throughout Africa; and the fact that while droughts and conflict may create price spikes, the root causes of this phenomenon lie with government.”

17 countries (are) struggling to come to terms with the impact of two consecutive years of drought, which has left more than 38 million people at risk this year.
A child died of poison gas in Syria - from Google Images
Jesus lives in Syria. Pray for all those, again, living continually under threat of violence and death. For those who grieve. For perpetrators, whoever they are. For leaders in all countries who perpetuate war for nefarious purposes as if it were a game and deaths simply collateral damage....

So, no leap-frogging over Holy Week to Easter, Ros. The natural human reaction to suffering is to want it to go away rather than live through it. Holy Week is an opportunity to choose to live in the questions without simple answers and to become more fully human.

Randolph Rose bronze collection - from Google Images
Next week, we can play leap frog - those who are still young enough to do it. Well, in our hearts if age and infirmity prevent the act.