What is good about this day? Is it an ultimate irony—the day of death is the “good” day or is it pointing to something more, like so many things of faith?
Today we remember, relive, witness, even embody, the killing of Love. Sunday we will begin to awaken to the realization that Love, actually, cannot die; but today, Love hung on a cross and was crucified as a common criminal. Jesus was killed by the death penalty of the day, the public execution of choice—crucifixion. The Christ suffered acute pain, torment, ridicule, and breathed his last breath. Christians don’t believe that he was pretending, that this was a show, or that some part of him died while the other part lived. We believe he suffered and DIED, there, in that way.
Today is a day of lament, a day to stand at the foot of the cross and wail. There is so much to lament in the world right now, so much that torments us, so much that should cause us to “rend our garments” to use an ancient embodiment of pure grief expressed. Sometimes it feels like every time I read or listen to the news, something fills me with sorrow. Often I cry right there, or scream. Sometimes I cannot, and I know that sorrow for the world goes somewhere—into my heart, the sinew of my body, and carrying it around, I grow heavy. It begs for release. Today is a day of release, of utter lament!
Last week I had the privilege to attend the doctoral defense of an amazing religious sister from India. Her topic was “The cry of the earth, the cry of the poor” and looked at how her fellow religious sisters might respond to the connection between the destruction of the earth and the utter poverty of so many of the people of India. Her focus was on a spirituality of “making-whole” and one key component she called for was lament. Our world needs lament, she said, places to grieve and wail and weep for the destruction of life and the suffering of the people of God. Today I am with the women at and on the way to the cross, weeping for the killing of Love, and with the women of the world, weeping in the suffering and death that is their daily life.
At my sister Caity’s viewing, or wake, the day before her funeral, there was a moment when a group of her closest girlfriends from college arrived. They had not seen Caity yet, had not been able to be with her in her final days. This was her sweet tribe of sisters, beholding her spirit-fled body for the first time, lifeless in its casket. As soon as they saw her, they began to wail and scream. Their cries stopped and shook us all, brought tears back from their stilled places and we wept anew. They crowded over her, held each other and wept, loudly, giving open voice and embodiment to their grief. It was shocking to our western wake customs of sanitized death and neat grief, and it jolted us. For me it was a comfort, an affirmation. YES. That is what this grief feels like. Thank you, I wanted to say to them, for giving true shape to this depth of sadness that I feel—wrenched and shaken to the core of me.
I have learned that lament is not just appropriate, but necessary in this human experience. There is so much to lament! Migrants and refugees are being left to die at borders and in camps that have become tombs. Syrians are being murdered—by each other, and by U.S “aid” in the form of missiles instead of open borders and humanitarian relief. The earth is dying and still people deny that climate change is real. Women all over the world are raped, mutilated, killed and denied equal opportunity at life. Transgendered people are still refused basic human rights and dignity all over the world. Immigrant families are being torn apart, human beings named “alien” and “illegal.” Black men continue to be suspected and targeted, unfree to exist as their White brothers do. Our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters are being routinely fired from their jobs at Catholic schools and continue to be denied sacraments that only God can sanctify. Women are told they cannot follow their call from God to be deacons and priests, religious leaders as Christ made them. All over the world people go hungry, while many of us have more than we could ever need. Through all these ways and so many others, over and over again, we Crucify Him. Over and over we buy into the lie of Death. Where, oh where, is our lament? Where is our wail in the face of so much injustice, both in our society and in our Church? My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?
Maybe this day, in some way, is good because we get to remember the lament, the cry of the poor, the oppressed, the lost and forsaken. We get to enter in, to look death in the face, to wail, to feel fully what we actually feel, to sob and voice our opposition to the culture of death. Lament becomes an act of resistance. Feeling it all through becomes the most honest, and the most influential thing. In our cry, in deep encounter with death, we embody our “NO!” to it’s hold on love.