I wrote this in early May, just after the twin disasters of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and the earthquake in central China. It seemed right for Good Friday.
May the mystery and work of Jesus be fresh for you this Holy Week.
A God Who Weeps
I just finished attending a weekday morning Mass at the nearby Catholic Church. I sit here and ponder: When hunger increases and food grows more scarce, or when disaster casualties mount, sometimes my heart sinks with each sad report, and it turns from bright red and warm to a cool steel blue.
I can almost feel it. My chest exhales and I feel something like a loss of body temperature. My heart stops sinking only by cooling itself, another slight cooling of passion and hopefulness.
Then I go after faith as something to blame, go after my expectations of God and grouse at his potency if not his unconcern, his laissez faire way of overlording this world in the midst of pain and need. Can He do nothing? Who is clanging the steeple bells to rouse… God?
This is where I suppose it turns from a faith-in-humankind issue and becomes a faith-in-God issue. The fateful twist of the accusing finger away from our combined culpability to the one seductively simple Scapegoat.
As I drove away from the church toward my office, I listened to the gorgeous, and for me emotive, 17th century sacred choral “Miserere” by Allegre, rendered from David’s penitential mourn in Psalm 51. It’s the wail of the world, and of all who live there, vocalized by voices straight from heaven itself that pierce every octave of my soul. Heaven bewailing the misery of man. Heaven crying with us, grieving our sin, mourning our fate in ancient Latin words that I wish I understood but barely need to. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love.
And I recall the priest’s words as he held up the communion host today: “The body of Christ, broken for you.” Broken. Broken for a broken world; for a broken me. The body of Christ, Cory, broken for you.
Between his body and his blood given, can there be there any question of the heart of Christ also being broken? Scripture says Jesus wept. Was there ever a religion that claims that God weeps, that He mourns, that he breaks for us?
“Weep with those who weep,” Jesus says. Is that what God does too? It wouldn’t be enough for me if that’s all He were capable of doing. Yet there is something about this weeping, this broken heart, that speaks to my heart, that resonates with my experience of life for 54 years: God does not swoop in and right every wrong. Yet. He does not feed every hungry child. Yet. He does not, whether he is able or interested or potent or all or none of the above; He does not.
Sermons promising that this time he surely will no longer finds easy space in my heart. And I think that explains why I gain strength from this expression of Jesus’ Church, the Church of the Perpetual Crucifix, the Church of Faithful Sufferers. Why? Because I myself can feel some tiny part of the pain of the world, and I have seen pretty close up that there are no glib, neatly-tied-up answers or perfect endings in this life. But I can show up anyway, just like the 60 other people at church this morning of diverse age, ethnicity and economic status.
No promises from a positivist pulpit. No hanging on the words of a preacher for the comfort I lack, relying on him and his stirring words to bolster a flagging belief that everything will work out the way I want it to work out.
Instead, just the sacramental homage to a God I love but don’t always like in the way He superintends things. Instead, gazing up at a God-man who didn’t take the easy way out. He hung there until it was finished, stayed in the pain, drank the dregs.
There is a rhythm of faith in this place, of faithful-ness. A faith that accepts the ache, and has even discovered a way to integrate the ache into the very experience of faith itself. Because the ache is life; it’s real, and I refuse to deny it or fear it. After all, I only fear it because my faith walk hasn’t been holistic enough to integrate it fully. Yet.
But today I realized that it’s not only about us participating in the sufferings of Christ; it’s also about Christ participating in the sufferings of us. Not just “once for all” in his death, but something quite immediate, available, a traveling and hurting together. God with us. Emmanuel.
I turned out from my short drive to the office and detoured instead to a coffee house to write this. And while I waited and listened and reflected at a long turn signal, I sensed my fear of faithlessness turning away too, the music and my heart embracing the same beautiful aching groan that heaven was heaving, letting it in from the cold to warm my heart, cradling the truth of it, transcending words. Too deep for words. As deep called unto deep.
And right then my eyes caught sight of something very strange: a trinity of vertical purple flags without any markings, inexplicably standing beside the traffic light, side by side, flapping in the breeze. Like Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all arrayed in the very color of the Passion, the Pain, the Broken Heart, broken for us.
A God who weeps.
And now, praise be to Him, my own heart warming again by the spirit of the suffering faithful Christ, I can weep too.