01 April 2010

Meditation: "Sorrow"

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" --Mark 15:34

"Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, 'Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.'" --Luke 23:46

"Laments, the most frequent category among the psalms, begin with a cry to God expressing anguish, suffering and abandonment, list reasons for the suffering, plead with God for release and end with petition or praise. Laments give voice to suffering with the plaintive realization that alienation and suffering can be placed before God. The psalmist clings to God at that very moment of God’s absence. The earliest accounts of Jesus’ suffering and death embody the theology of lament, and in [Matthew, Mark, and Luke] the final words of Jesus are from laments." --John R. Donahue, SJ


Dear Friends,

Two acquaintances bump into one another on the street. One asks the other, "Hey, how's it going?" and they reply, "Oh, I'm doing fine, thanks."

Except they aren't.

Turns out their heart is heavy with grief over the death of someone dear to them. And this sorrow has only intensified a medical condition that gets worse with stress, leading to constant discomfort. They're worried about their children and don't know if they will have a job next week.

But when asked the question, "Hey, how's it going?" who wants to be the downer, the whiner, the complainer? So the brave face goes up, the sorrow gets swept under the rug, and the silent suffering continues.

A couple of years ago, Newsweek ran an article entitled, "Happiness? Enough already!" The gist of the article was that we live in a society that is obsessed with "happiness." And living in such a society can be pretty hellish for those who are not feeling particularly cheery or superficially happy or who are even--gasp!--experiencing deep depression. We're quick to throw medication at what sometimes is quite an ordinary human emotion--sorrow. Don't get me wrong--I know very well that there are circumstances when the help of modern medicine is entirely appropriate and exceedingly helpful. But, by and large, we don't know what to do with sorrow and so we don't do anything with it--other than try to get rid of it or think there's something wrong with us for feeling it in the first place.

I'm thinking about this today because tomorrow is Good Friday, the day that Christians mark the crucifixion and death of Jesus. And it seems to me that, of any day in the year, sorrow is an entirely appropriate emotion to feel on Good Friday. We see Jesus, unjustly accused, scorned, beaten, and killed--and it should affect us. Rather than suppress it, sorrow is one way we are supposed to feel when we consider the suffering and death of Jesus. Rather than try to explain it or theologize it or understand it--just this one day, let's just feel it. And perhaps shed a tear while we're at it.

A wise woman I knew, responding to someone who apologized for shedding tears while recounting a very sad story, said, "There is no need to apologize for your tears. They are a sign of your humanity."

Indeed. Tears, sorrow, grief--they are signs of our humanity. God help us if they are not our response to the suffering and the pain and the tragedies that are an inevitable part of being human.

If on no other day of the year, on Good Friday let us lament and feel the sorrow of a world that, if we could ask it, "How are you?" would have to honestly reply, "I'm hurting."

Blessings on your week,


Prayer: Compassionate God, sometimes--in the midst of our pain and sorrow--we wonder where you are. Help us to place it all into your care, trusting that you do not forsake us. Amen.

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