Station VIII: Lament

"The Women:  Veronical Wipes Jesus' Face and Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem, St. Mary's Church, Barton-on-Humber, April 4, 2007
“The Women: Veronical Wipes Jesus’ Face and Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem, St. Mary’s Church, Barton-on-Humber, April 4, 2007

Scripture Passage: Luke 23: 27-31

27A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him.28But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.29For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’30Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’31For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

The eighth station on this holy walk is marked by a stone with a Latin cross on the wall of a Greek Orthodox church.  Near the cross, an inscription reads, “Christ the Victor.”  Tradition has designated this as the place where Jesus encounters the women of Jerusalem.  The women were convinced of his holiness.  I don’t think they understood it completely.  After all, who did?  (After all, who does?)  But they knew that he was something special.  After all, he had paid attention to them, these women, these ones who were given no place in society other than to birth babies.  He saw them as something more.  And they were grateful.  And today they grieved.

As Jesus and the crowd moved closer to the end, the wailing got louder and louder.  Jesus, covered in dirt and sweat and near death, lifted his head and looked into their eyes.  “Do not weep for me,” he said, “but weep for the world.”  Weep for the world; cry for the world; grieve for the world. In other words, those that suffer in the world, those parts of the world that are not life-giving, those part of people’s lives that are not the vision that God holds–those things should bother you.  Those are the things for which you should weep.

Weeping is hard for us.  Our culture is pretty well emotionally controlled, for the most part.  In fact, there are those that grow up thinking that tears and grief and crying are a sign of weakness.  We do not know how to lament.  And, yet, think of all those psalms of lament.  They are prayers.  Laments are prayers.  Weeping is prayer.  These are prayers for what could be and is not, prayers for what should have been that fell short, and prayers for the hurting in our world.  Jesus is telling these women to pray, to wake up, and to work to change the world.  He is acknowledging that they understand this vision and that, now, they have work to do.  It is a way of putting others before self.  It is a way of engaging yourself and your faith in bringing the Kingdom of God in its fullest into being.  It is a way of continuing the life of Jesus Christ.

I saw a feature news story by NBC’s Brian Williams last night on Camden, New Jersey.  A bustling boomtown in the first half of the 20th century, Camden is now America’s poorest city and the one with the highest crime rate.  Surrounded by relatively affluent suburbs, it is the place that we drive by, wondering why no one does anything.  Its residents that fill the inner city row houses seldom venture outside for fear of the safety of themselves and their children.  It is the way we hide poverty and despair in plain sight.

So on this Lenten journey, learn what it means to weep for the world.  Pray for the world and for others who hurt and grieve and bleed, those who fear and cry and need.  Learn to lament, an active lament that will make you part of bringing the world into that vision that God holds.  Open your eyes to see the pain that exists in plain sight.  Our Lenten journey calls us to do something to change the world.

Grace and Peace,