Saturday, March 23, 2013

Green Wood

            Among the people following Jesus were some women, beating their breasts and wailing for him.  Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.” 

            Of all the people on the pages of the gospel, women had as much or more reason to bewail the horror of Jesus’ murder than any of the rest.  He cut across social barriers and prejudices of his time to reach out to women.  To Simon the Pharisee he had said, “Simon, do you see this woman” who had come in off the street to wash his feet with her tears and dry them with her hair.  Simon had seen only a prostitute.  Jesus saw a person.  He had raised up the only daughter of Jairus.  He had raised to life again the only son of a widow of Nain.  When a woman slipped up behind him just to touch the fringe of his clothes, her hemorrhage had suddenly stopped.  Instead of scolding her, Jesus had said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”  Women had taken note when Jesus took one of their children and made the child the model of discipleship saying, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.”  Mary of Bethany had heard his word of affirmation, “Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her,” though Sister Martha was none too happy with Jesus’ equal rights intervention, left as she was in the kitchen sisterless to do all the work by herself.  Little wonder that they were stunned, shocked, ripped apart to see him trudging through Jerusalem.  They were losing a friend, and with a friend, the hope that he had briefly embodied.

            Weep for yourselves.

            The passion, the suffering is not that of Jesus alone.  It belongs to the Simons of Cyrene who happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, who have the cross foisted upon them.  It belongs to the thieves who are crucified with him.  It belongs to the women beaten and tortured by the Taliban, by women raped in time of war, by women and men forcibly removed from their homes and lands to become slaves, by women and men and children ignored by systems, starved financially, persecuted for loving the wrong persons, ridiculed for their beliefs, locked up and forgotten about. 

            For the days have come when they say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.”  Deserts expand.  Rivers dry up.  The earth grows hot and those who could cool it even a degree simply party on, believing that it can never die or that its death would hasten the coming of the Kingdom. 

            Already they are beginning to say in some places to the mountains, “Fall on us,” and to the hills, “Cover us.”  Do not weep for pitiable Jesus, paraded through the streets of Old Jerusalem like a clown, mocked and despised by those who wanted him to perform some miracle for their entertainment.  But weep for yourselves and for your children.  The passion, the suffering, the tragedy is not his more than it is yours and theirs. 

            For if they do these things in the green wood, what will happen in the dry?

            So quickly has the triumphal entry into Jerusalem turned sour.  In just a few sentences the spring has turned to the heat of summer, and the promise of wood turning green has dried and shriveled, just waiting for the fire.

            It is our passion.  Weep for yourselves and for your children. 

            But as you weep, see through your tears a spectacular hope.  For even when the mountains are falling, the concrete and steel crumbling, the ailing structures of society nearing collapse, there is a certain majesty that settles upon the brow crowned with thorns.  The jeering voice that snarls, “Are you not the Messiah?  Save yourself and us!” does not jar his composure.  The Messiah, the anointed one, forgives instead of hates, opens paradise to those who but ask to be remembered in his kingdom, and manifests the strength that is perfected in weakness.  Forever after it will be possible to say with assurance that grace is sufficient; that they might kill the body but cannot kill the soul; that when those who take up their cross daily and follow him walk through the valley of the shadow of death they need fear no evil; that when their path leads through fiery trials, the flame shall not hurt them, nor when they must wade through deep waters the floods will not overwhelm them.  His passion means that love is stronger than death.  His dying defangs Death. 

            Cease your weeping, if only for a moment.  Follow him not only with your cross, whatever it is, and your suffering, however great.  Following Jesus, place your spirit in the hands of God, now and in the hour of your death.  For from him you have come, in him you move, and to him you will live unto the ages of ages.

© Frank Gasque Dunn, 2013

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