Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Carrying the Corpse to Jesus Is the Only Way

There is perhaps no more sorrowful sight that I have encountered than that of a parent mourning the loss of a child. I recall one Funeral Mass that I offered when the Mother and Father came down the aisle together, the tiny casket of their child in the father's arms. The image says it all. The totality of the loss, the depth of the grief, the utter shock of how tragic life can sometimes be. The lifeless body of a child (no matter what the age) in the arms of a mourning parent touches us at the depths of our being.

St. Luke recounts for us an encounter that Jesus had as he entered the City of Nain. As he approached the city gate, he encounter a funeral procession. The body of a man, who was his mother's only son, was being carried away. Along with the crowd, the woman--a widow--was walking beside the body of her son. In front of this deeply sorrowful image, Jesus was moved with pity. He was touched in the depths of his soul by the pain, the anguish, and the sorrow of this poor woman. I wonder if he saw in her a reminder of what would soon happen to his own mother? Did he see in his mind's eye the hour when his own mother would accompany him to his burial?  Either way, Jesus was moved. Jesus was not indifferent to the cries of the bereaved and broken.

For some time now, many people in the Church have felt as though something tremendous has been lost, something is missing. Life in the city continues. Statements are made, meetings take place, and the humdrum of Church life moves along like it always did. We go about doing the same things we've always done, but it's like the soul is missing. Many words are spoken, but the words ring hollow. In the midst of the city, there has been a death, a loss. In the midst of the city, a procession of mourners walks about carrying the lifeless body of their loved one, but many in the city don't seem to notice or they pretend not to notice. They speak in platitudes. "Life goes on," they say. "Worse things have happened." "We've been through worse." "It's not that bad."

The mourners walk through the streets, but they feel invisible. Their pain seems to be mocked, dismissed, or trivialized. Some intentionally ignore the mourners while others consider the mourners to be rude. They are made to feel as though their grief is becoming an interruption to the city's normalcy. "Nobody," they say "will want to visit this city if these mourners continue carrying on." And yet, in the face of tragic loss and death, mourning and sorrow are the only proper responses. The great miracle that happened in Naim occurred when Jesus saw the mourners and was moved by their pain. It is unlikely that we would have ever heard about that day in Nain if Jesus had ignored the mourners or simply said, "It's not as bad as you're making it out to be." We know about Nain because Jesus raised a dead man. And Jesus raised that dead man because he saw and acknowledged the reality before him.

These days in the life of the Church, it can feel a bit like we are trying too hard to ignore the corpse in our midst. We focus on committees, public relations, and statements, but we ignore the woman carrying the lifeless body of her son. We refuse to acknowledge that some deadly thing has taken the life of someone we love. Honestly, who of us really cares about the new transit system, the new environmental rules, or the newly formed committee when in front of us is a mourning mother holding the lifeless body of her son? In the face of that reality, everything else seems petty and vain. In the face of such sorrow, the only human thing to do is acknowledge the truth of it.

Instead of going about life as usual, let's process around with the dead body and mourn. Let us show Jesus how sorrowful we are that something we loved is rotting and decaying. Jesus is moved by the sorrow and helplessness of those whom he encounters.  No public relations strategy can bring the dead back to life. But, Jesus can. Jesus--who is moved by those who mourn and weep--raises the dead.

Does this mean that we curl up, die, and stop doing the things that are part of the life of the Church? No, but it means that we stop pretending like everything is normal and fine. It means we learn how to mourn and weep. It means that we face reality. It means that we weep firstly for our own sins which bring death to the city of our own soul. We carry the corpse of our soul to the Confessional and receive the life-giving touch of Christ. Then, we weep for the death and destruction that has come into the City of the Church. It means that we live in reality. The stench of the rotting corpse is not going to dissipate simply by ignoring it. Jesus is waiting for us to acknowledge it openly. When we do, he will touch the dead and bring new life. Converts, vocations, and strong Catholic communities will come from those places where people mourn. "Blessed are you who mourn." Converts, vocations, and strong Catholic communities will not come from places that try to be innovative and build a city that covers over the reality of sin and death. 

There has been a death in the midst of our City. The stench is apparent. Let's not ignore it or fear that it makes our City look bad. Instead, let's mourn and weep. And in so doing, we can be certain that Jesus--who looks with mercy on those who mourn--will restore what was lost. Jesus--and Jesus alone--will raise the dead.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent analogy of the conditions we face and excellent remedy. I wish the higher ups would do more of this, instead of planning more committees and procedures that don't address the real problem: the root is sin;the solution is repentance and a firm purpose of amendment.