Friday, March 20, 2009

Avoiding the Passion

I blogged last week about some of my current resistance to reading the passion narratives. Most of it was intellectual musings which I entitled Wandering Around Heresy-ville.

Well in my Ignatian Group this week I my made a connection that I think my last post was a way of avoiding.

It can be very easy working in a church to use my job as a replacement to my relationship with God. It happens very slowly. I have to read the bible for my job, I have to pray in business meetings. I don't need to pray and read at home. I've worked for churches long enough to recognize this tendency in myself and to take steps to avoid it.

What I didn't recognize, is that I've avoided reading the Crucifixion. I tell myself that I can recite the passages almost word perfect, but I made another connection, another reason this week.

This may be stating the obvious, but I think the reason I've avoided the narratives is that they describe a death. A particularly harrowing death. And this is the first time I've really paid any attention to them since my mom died.

I was with mom when she died. It was not a touching Lifetime Movie Network scene. She was in the final throes of the cancer ravaging her body. Both my brother and I were with her when she passed away. It was absolutely horrible, and I am so glad I was there for her.

Having witnessed death up close, I can't read the gospels in the same way anymore. Jesus died at the hands of Roman Executioners rather than at the mercy of cancer, but the emotions I associated with watching my mom die are now fixing themselves to a hill outside of Jerusalem.

I remember when I went to see Mel Gibson's movie 'The Passion of the Christ'. I was seated with some work colleagues when 2 people came and sat down in front of us. They both had large 64oz drinks and huge buckets of buttery popcorn. I felt angry. 'We're about to watch a Crucifixion! This isn't some prefabricated Hollywood Script designed to entertain the masses!'

Then I realized.

That is precisely what Crucifixion was to the ancient world. People would gather to watch the criminals die, in the same way they gathered around the guillotine in France and the public hangings in London.

I think of how I would feel if there had been callous spectators at my mom's death...

...I think too much

Having seen death, real death, not some Hollywood make believe, I find reflections of my experiences written into the Gospels. As I read the bible, the bible reads me.

In my last post, I railed against God who seems cruel and impotent in the events of Good Friday.

In this post I've begun to glimpse just how agonizing it must have been for the Father to watch his Son die.

1 comment:

Ginger said...

I think the difference in watching an execution v. watching your loved one die is that at an execution one is watching a criminal be put to death. As you know Jesus was a criminal, a deviant. Somehow watching a criminal be put to death is justifiable for whatever reason (probably associated with the execution of our own sinful natures in the process - cathartic).

It's hard to put the death of a loved one (as entertainment) in the same category as the exeution (murder) of a criminal. We love Jesus now (which makes him one of our loved ones), but then I would bet we would feel some justice in watching him die - or more likely we would ignore that it happened so that we could asuage our human feelings of guilt.

Camus' Meursault says, as he's about to be executed, that watching an execution is the most important thing one can do, and that it is a means for opening onesself up to the "gentle indifference of the world" which, in turn, is most comforting (familiar).
-from The Stranger