The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
He is near who upholds my right;
if anyone wishes to oppose me,
let us appear together.
Who disputes my right?
Let him confront me.
See, the Lord GOD is my help;
who will prove me wrong?
It is Wednesday of Holy Week. After the joyous welcoming of Jesus into Jerusalem at the beginning of the week, the picture is changing. Things are becoming dangerous for Jesus. Judas has made his arrangement for betrayal. The Hosannas have died away. Jesus and his followers are preparing to celebrate Passover quietly. The religious authorities are worrying about the disruptive influence of Jesus and his followers, and the Romans are taking notice.
And yet the first reading for today is about steadfastness in the face of treachery and danger. Jesus could have stopped his preaching and acting. He could have left Jerusalem, gone back out into the countryside, perhaps had a long and successful life as a preacher. Yet he made a different choice, one that led eventually to his execution. Other followers besides Judas must have begun to think he’d gone mad. Some of them probably slipped away quietly during that week, before things started to get really serious.
We are sometimes faced with choices like that. Do we stick to what we know of God, or seek our own safety? Do we shout “Hosanna” at the beginning of the week, and “Crucify him!” at the end, or do we stay and keep watch at the foot of the cross?
Where would we have been in those Jerusalem crowds?
Where are we in the daily choices we make?
–Baya Clare, CSJ
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every one who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
These verses are part of a longer poem by St. Patrick, Patron of Ireland and the Irish, whose feast day we celebrate today. The last two lines remind me of a story told by Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, in her book “Dead Man Walking.” She invites a prisoner who is about to be executed to see the face of Christ in her face as he is coming to his last moments of life.
What would the world be like if we were to live so as to make that possible for everyone we meet?
–Baya Clare, CSJ
Take care and be earnestly on your guard
not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen,
nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live,
but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.
A friend of mine often says this simple prayer:
O God, let us remember what we need to remember,and forget what we need to forget.
This passage from Deuteronomy is about the spiritual and cultural practice of anamnesis, or not-forgetting. But not-forgetting is a hard thing to sustain in a culture that places high value on the New! and Exciting! celebrity or fad of the moment. The value of old stories and ways, especially if they are simple and plain, can sometimes get lost in the glitter and glam of the latest shiny thing trying to draw our attention (and dollars.)
Which is not to say that all shiny new things are unworthy of our attention, or that all the old things are. Some things really do need to be forgotten, and I’m sure many of us have ready candidates for that list. There is no particular virtue in age, nor particular vice in youth. The age of a remember-worthy event or action or story isn’t really the point. The point is the effect it has on our relationships with God and one another. If such recall causes re-membering (putting back together) then keep it. If it causes toxic disruption, if it dis-members community, then let it go.
What are you re-membering this Lent?
And what needs forgetting?
Baya Clare, CSJ