Holy Thursday


In the Judeo-Christian tradition the first part of the Great commandment was about knowing God.

Knowing God. It was April. When the clash of systems was all around. Of winter with spring. Of death with life.

The restlessness theme. About trying to do something. Like a baby trying to communicate something. Or like King Lear. At the end of life. Somehow restless to communicate something to my God. The restlessness was not about a low battery. I was not tired. Sleep issues could be a factor in underlying health issues, which might involve the human soul.

Restless discomfort. In restless April.

I once was seated on an airplane bound for someplace in the Dakotas, next to a man who claimed to have been reborn. I had a feeling of restlessness, listening to him try to explain his own internal weather pattern. I was fortunate enough to have been born into a tradition which I had always accepted as my own. But if somehow you were Rip Van Winkle and had slept through the past twenty years, you might have missed some of the pain of the institutions carrying God. If you were of the Irish Catholic tradition, that beast of burden, carrying God. With all the clash.

I am trying to enjoy my worship in English in the present, of this special liturgical year. For the last time, as I witnessed a certain death of the words of Vatican II, at the hands of the man in charge of the Congregation of Divine Worship. Though mostly I am in awe of the selections chosen week in and week out, the combination of the Old Testament reading with the Gospel, chosen by someone in the Congregation of Divine Worship. I was struck however by the translations provided in the reading this week, which to my ear sounded as a wrong note. Maybe because of my own growing distrust of the man in charge of the Congregation of Divine Worship who will be changing the way my own congregation prays come December. In the English translations. So maybe that was what caused my ear to question the translation. For example: “And when he entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?”

And the crowds replied: “This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

There was the repetitive theme, as mentioned in the Gospel of Mark: “Then Jesus said to them: ‘”All of you will have your faith shaken…”

The pain. Generation after generation, viewing your own family deal with their relationships. With the screaming fear. Over me. A father, viewing your own progeny deal with relationships, like the one I once had. In Asia. At the time with the 1.5 billion people of Asia, where one billion lived in poverty. That April in the Philippines. It took me a few years to discover the unstated distrust of me. When a westerner stayed in western hotels. When a young Asian women tried to explain her distrust of people who lived lavish lives. When so many people were suffering. And because of this, she had wanted no part of me. When so many other deceitful relationships abound in a nation torn apart by all the pain. Of poverty. When illness of one was a financial setback for everyone. In a world without a safety net, of life insurance, of health insurance. And then I recently saw a rebroadcast of an old interview with Amy Chua on C-span. She was born in the Philippines but of Chinese lineage, in a family for that part of the world quite well-off. In the book she was promoting, she told the story of how the Filipino driver of her aunt opened fire, killing her aunt. The Filipino maids in the house knew of his intent but never stopped him. It was the divide in this culture of the native born poor, with the ethnic Chinese of some wealth. It was the same April clash.

After an afternoon an evening of great restlessness, as I searched yesterday online for the right tires to purchase as I planned to remove my snow tires this week, I went to bed last night . I happen to start a new day with thought about this restlessness. A restlessness, not unilike a baby’s, but in no way connected to issues of sleep. Or even about tires. With so much uncertainty about the world. An inner restlessness like that found between the lines of Shakespeare’s King Lear. At life’s end. Like I had witnessed in the April of my grandfather’s eighty-eighth year. When a child or an old man was still trying to communicate something. Trying to get traction. Maybe about a spiritual direction.

I have this friend in the pest control business who likes to call me in the first hour when I get up, on his way to work. During what happens to be a sacred part of my day. Morning after morning, of late, I get up on fire, ready to write. With passion. And calls about the world and its problems extinguish my own inner fires.

On Palm Sunday, there is pain and discomfort in most of the readings. With the key roles played by a servant of the high priest who gets his ear cut off — with mention in ordinary time of the three times the voice of God was heard instructing the people to “Hear him,” when it came to Jesus. Before the blessing of the palms, the Gospel is read at the start of Mass, with a description of a beast of burden, carrying God, much like a religion has provided the transport in my own life. Mostly there is the discomfort in the reading from Isaiah: “The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary, a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning, he opens my ear that I may hear.”

All the pain in the readings, about Passover. The readings on Palm Sunday, Psalm 22, a psalm of David. The reading of Isaiah, about a land with so many other forgotten prophets – the one before the translation of the Passion in the Gospel of Matthew which seemed to me to miss the traditional words. That beast of burden, carrying God. The reading focused on, with recognition of, the beast of burden — and only that beast of burden, carrying God.

In Judaism, the first commandment was simply, “I am the Lord, your God.”

With all the ensuing prophets who suffer for what they know. David asking his question, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

In a world with the always present innate Fear of the Lord, the pain and suffering which went with being God. The pain of being Father. The pain and suffering of being the Messiah. And the pain of being chosen. In a relationship.

Like in springtime. When the clash of systems was all around. Of winter with spring. An acceptance of pain, with a few days left of consideration of some self-inflicted pain in genuine alms-giving. When the conflict in the story was over the perception of a Messiah by the religious leaders at the time. The clash of power, of the human with the divine. And my own growing distrust of the man in charge of the Congregation of Divine Worship, and about his boss.

Generation after generation, the pain, the loneliness in being God. All the Jewish participants in the story of my own tradition….Peter, James, John, Judas. Every single one of them , with their differing points of view in the story, concerning the proper way to respond. To such speed of the unraveling. The painful witness which all began “riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”

When Judaism had been what had always been the transport of the one-true God, with some human expectation of a messiah.

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1 comment so far

  1. paperlessworld on

    TO the city of David. As Holy Thursday becomes Good Friday as what a lawyer might call wrongful detention is followed by wrongful termination. Who could ever believe in a Passover – like on one dark night Moses finally had? Who would believe it now? That was the mystery. The darn near impossible. God! Who would ever believe? In the story of the human condition, in the story of salvation history, when wrongful detention was followed by wrongful termination, as God came between Chosen People. So why not have Jesus be challenged, as Moses one day had challenge the Pharaoh? Who could, who would ever believe so personally in a Messiah — with all the personal stress between loved ones in passing on a human concept of God — now? To Jerusalem, a Messiah – who could ever believe? Who would ever believe? Who could believe in the “strangeness” of God? It was always the question. Then, and now – this Holy Week.


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