You know, church life can be really trying sometimes. Just because it is "church" doesn’t mean it will be without communication breakdowns. Just because it is "church" doesn’t mean that people and procedures will be respected. On the contrary, precisely because the church is human many unfavorable qualities can, and often do, abound.
The challenge for each of us is to bear this cross when it presents itself. We must be Simon to each other and help each other carry the cross. Indeed, we must challenge those who thrust the cross upon our shoulders, or on our friend’s shoulders, to begin with. And this challenge is one of made out love. Precisely because I love you as a sister/brother in Christ, I must challenge you sometimes.
The thing is, most of us are afraid of that confrontation. We fear losing the friendship. We fear being cast as the troublemaker. And so many end up whispering in the pews to those they would see as allies about what this one or that one did, about what this group or that group did. In the end, that does nothing but build up another cross.
Near as I can tell, Jesus Christ spent his ministry challenging folks. Wouldn’t it really be more Christ-like to offer the challenge? And to do so in love and respect? To really pray about what words to say, about how to lovingly offer the challenge? Instead, many stand crucified. Maybe we are nailed to the cross because we are afraid to open out mouths.
There are times when it is necessary to stand Silent Like the Lamb, Silent with The Lamb. However, there are other times when our silence perpetuates and exasperates the sin.
Now, I won’t detail on this electronic parchment why the San Damiano crucifix in the photo here is a cross for me to bear. It has nothing to do with the cross itself or the fact that it is San Damiano. It will suffice to say that this cross I bear is a cross due to communication breakdowns and disrespect.
Still, this cross, that is to say, the cross made of wood in this photo, has been part of our parish’s Lenten mission. As I reflect on it now, even the cross built of communication break downs and disrespect has been an integral part of this mission. At least it has been for me.
Even so, it has been difficult for me to enter into the spirit of this mission knowing that people I love deeply have been hurt.
The presenter of the mission told the story of St. Francis of Assisi and the wolf. Now, that is a story I’ve heard since childhood. I won’t detail it here, but you can Google it easy enough if you want to know more about.
The presenter spoke of the wolf being that wild animal we fear. St. Francis managed to tame that wolf, at least for himself.
And with that I realize that writing this blog is cathardic. I am not afraid of the wolf (confrontation/challenge). On the contrary, I think there are many who do not like me precisely because of that.
The leader of the mission also asked the question of those present, "Who are you?" I had no difficulty answering the question. With Judith, my girlfriend from the Old Testament, I rejoice knowing I am a daughter of God.
But, at least for me, knowing I am a daughter of God is not enough. I need to articulate for myself what role I play in this family.
I am the member of the family that agitates every now and again. I am the member of the family that rocks the boat a little every once in a while. And I do this so that my brothers and sisters don’t grow apathetic and complacent in their faith.
I am the member of the family who dares to say we must worhip at the cross and not worship the cross. I am the one who dares to say that sometimes people use ministry not as mission but as an attempt to monopolize the Kingdom, as if that were even possible. I am the member of the family that recognizes that sometimes people can use God as an alibi for not seeing and hearing the Crucified one in our midst.
Indeed, true converstion calls for nothing less that confrontation.
I am not the wolf. I am the member of the family who is not afraid of the wolves named "Challenge" and "Confrontation." And because of this, there are some who don’t like it, don’t like me. So be it. I grew up with these wolves fearing them tremendously. And now I embrace them lovingly.
I will not stop embracing these wolves simply because others don’t like it. What these folks don't like, indeed what they fear, is their own conversion.
And so there is confrontation. For if I stand in silence and watch as others are hurt then I am just as guilty. I don’t know about you, but I can’t own that.
Perhaps now, I can embrace this cross, that is to say, the one built of communication break down and disrespect. By embracing it I mean to say/speak out loud (or least, on this electronic parchment) that this communication breakdown exists and has caused damage to the Body of Christ. As a daughter of God I will always embrace The Crucified. I pray that by doing so and by speaking these words we can begin the process of healing and reconciliation for that is what embracing the wolf is all about.
Behold the Wood of the Cross.
Behold and Listen.
This Crucifix of San Damiano is speaking.
I only hope I am not the only one who can hear it.