Saturday, April 07, 2012

i thirst

A couple of years before I retired, I received a telephone call from a fellow employee.  A guy I tolerated, at best.

He surprised me by asking if I would go to lunch with him.  He needed to talk about something.

The something was my faith.  He started off by saying he was an atheist, but he was interested in why I was a Christian. 

"Why me?," I asked. 

"Because you have always been kind to me."

I almost felt a pang of guilt.  Toleration?  Yes.  But, nice?

I told him my story.  Why I was where I was.  But when we got to the point about loving your neighbor as yourself, he said: "That's impossible.  No one can do that."

That was  almost the same response I received from my Sunday School class the Sunday after September 11, 2001.  By that point, shock had been replaced with anger.  Even amongst the members of the class. 

I started the session by asking them to do what our faith teaches us -- to pray for our enemies.  On that day it was Osama bin Ladin. 

And it was tough.  But not impossible.  After all, the teacher who told us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us asked his Father to forgive the very men who were in the process of torturing and killing him. 

That is a powerful story.  And one that daily transforms my life.  When I choose wisely.

Yesterday I attended my first Mexican passion procession.  In Barra de Navidad.

Compared to what I have seen on other blogs, ours was a mere shadow of what happens in the Mexican highlands.  There were horses, Roman soldiers, condemned thieves, costumed mournful women, and, of course, Jesus with his cross.  What made it compelling was its "Hey, kids, let's put on a show" feel.  Dramatic, but not theatrical.

I almost missed it.  I have been (and still am) nursing a cold.  So, I stayed at the house until the last minute.  Or just past the last minute.  Lou called to tell me the procession had arrived early.  When I got there, they were heading past his house.

The procession stopped to reenact each station of the cross while a young woman in Middle Eastern dress held up a Roman numeral placard indicating the station.  That gave me an opportunity to take a few photographs.

I am still trying to work out my feelings about the procession.  My faith tradition does not dwell on the suffering of the Messiah.  But the fake blood and acting did not offend me.  Nor did it move me.

And I think I know why.  This portrayal of the Messiah's agony is just that -- a portrayal.  It is not the real thing.  It was not my camera that was removing me emotionally from the scene.  It was the scene itself.

The faith of some people can undoubtedly be increased by these displays.  I suspect, though, for a lot of people, the display is an end in itself.  That participating in the display will somehow allow them to gain suffering points.  But for what?

And that took me back to my lunch.  The passion display is merely a representation.  In the same way that being polite and nice to one another is merely oil in the social machinery.  It allows us to get by and to tolerate one another.

But that is not the same thing as loving your neighbor and your enemy.

For me, yesterday was a very good Friday.  Because life is not about the crucifixion.  It is about the resurrection and living in love with one another.

I hope you all have a blessed Easter.


Jdreeves said...

thanks steve,jr

John Calypso said...

Yup! It is about the Resurrection for sure. Thank God for that.

Steve Cotton said...

You are most welcome.

Steve Cotton said...

Thank God, indeed.

Dale Dolly Moore said...

Thanks for sharing both your faith and your stories --- it has relevance even when seen from the different perspective of a new locale, as yours has.

Lludwick2568 said...

Great mini message on a maximum event (Sunday).. 

Steve Cotton said...

 Well said, Al.

Steve Cotton said...

And thank you, Dale.

Mcotton said...

Good reminder that we sometimes forget how we should treat people,

Steve Cotton said...

 I seem to remember you teaching me that.

Stewnal said...

I'm not a Marxist by a long shot, but all this religious pageantry sometimes makes me think that ol' Karl may have been on to something with the stuff about opium and religion. 


Steve Cotton said...

 For me, it really draws away from the personal.  But we once had a very good conversation on that topic -- as I recall.  Your faith does not need that type of support.  Nor does mine.

Kim G said...

I admire your faith.  As the Buddhist equivalent of a once-a-year catholic, I'd note that the Buddha also says that people you don't like are a spiritual opportunity and that you should try to embrace them.

Compassion is one of the highest Buddhist values, and in my view one of the most important.

Feliz Pascua

Kim G
DF, Mexico
Where we saw the passion procession in Jojutla, Morelos.

Steve Cotton said...

Empathy seems to be the hardest of all human emotions to maintain.

There is a tale (perhaps apocryphal) of a young California Buddhist who approached the Dalai Lama and asked, with typical American exuberance: "What is the fastest way to enlightenment?"  The Dalai lama wept.

Babsofsanmiguel said...

This is an aside, but I lOVE the way they make the top of their helmets out of the bottoms of brooms.  First time I figured that out it made me laugh out loud........

Steve Cotton said...

I can tell you are not an aficiando of Warner Brothers cartoons. Marvin the Martian (one of Bugs's many antagonists) wore a Roman helmet that was distinctly the bottom of a push broom.