The readings and reflections for my Ignatian Exercises happen to coincide exactly with these last weeks of Lent.
This morning I read Matthew 27:26-31, writing afterward, “Horrible, horrible, horrible.” Scourged, clothed in a scarlet robe, mocked, spat upon, a staff thrust into his hand, “Hail, King of the Jews,” ha ha ha. “After they had mocked him, they took of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.”
In reflecting on the passage, what came to me was that the appropriate response, for me, at this stage of my life, is not to wring my hands, emote, try to imagine his pain–I can’t–and then to feel guilty because I can’t, or because I’m not willing to suffer as he did, or because I’m not suffering as he did.
Rather, it’s to stay with him, to be with him, in spite of my complete inadequacy and cowardliness. Those are givens, and they don’t give me a pass to look away, to refuse to acknowledge the suffering that the world (which as always includes me) imposed and continues to impose on him.
It’s to realize that he is always suffering in this way in and for and with and as the poor–the real poor, and the poor in all of us–and to act, by living our lives in a way that is cognizant of, reverent toward, and eternally grounded in the fact that the Crucifixion is what it took to set us right with God, the world, and ourselves.
And it’s to act, based on the above. When Jesus saw people in pain or in the grip of compulsions and obsessions, he didn’t just cry (though he did cry, as with Lazarus). He cast out demons, he healed, he raised from the dead. And before that, he spent thirty years marked by discipline, attention, prayer and inner work, in order, guided by the Father, to form the spirit that would be capable of performing such healings.
For me, that means a lot of work that at first glance doesn’t have anything to do with forming my spirit. Asking for what I’m worth when I get a writing job, for example. Making sure the contract for, say, a speaking gig, is in writing. Being open and available, insofar as possible, to whoever comes my way, but also having boundaries. As in if you bail withot warning, I don’t reschedule; as in if you’re late, I’ve set aside an hour and when the hour is up, we’re done. Trying to train myself to be gracious whether the other person is gracious or not. Taking a certain amount of trips when it would be easier and cheaper and way less angst-producing to stay home, because travel–if you do it a certain way–is a labor of love.
Refusing to become ideologically-obsessed (to be distinguished from being deeply, appropriately alarmed at the current cultural movement against goodness, beauty and truth, and toward the almost complete disintegration of the human person). Refraining from trying to gain followers or establish a brand (gag) based on an organizing principle of hatred, contempt, snitching, or snark (no matter how insufferable the potential target).
I’m not always successful, but what’s great is the world consequently pretty much leaves me alone to anonymously “wander with purpose.” I may not look like I’m doing much, but believe me, the wheels are turning! My spirit is forming and firming up by the minute. And to top it all off, from walking around for hours every day in the blazing sun, I’m getting a tan!
From what I could dig up online, there is only one English-speaking Mass per week in the entire city of San Miguel de Allende, supposedly: 10:30 a.m. Sunday at San Juan de Dios. So I showed up this morning and of course no-one was there besides one other aging (like me) couple, desperate for the Fifth Sunday of Lent liturgy. The lady who was sweeping around the pews assured us vociferously that the English Mass would be at 11:30. The couple had to leave but I stayed and had a nice Holy Hour, and then the 11:30 Mass was of course in Spanish. The good news there was I had no complaints about the homily!
Behind the altar was an astonishing display of various saints in spotlit compartments. At the bottom of the central column was Jesus, bloody and bowed on the Cross. Above him was a statue of the Blessed Virgin, standing on a cloud-like “carpet” of aquamarine sequins that looked like something a trapeze artist–or a burlesque queen–might wear. And above her, way up high, was what looked like a papier-mache Christ with a scarlet robe and a cockeyed golden crown on his Head: “Cristo Rey” read the legend.
Damn straight. Restored to his rightful glory: Christ Our King.