Dear sisters and brothers,
This past Sunday we read about Jesus’ response to his friend Lazarus’ death, and the pain and desolation it caused Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary. Jesus was “deeply disturbed and troubled” by all the sadness, and wept at his friend’s tomb.
The homily was about the fact that God laments with us, and, paradoxically, shares his life with us at the same time. We live, even though we die, as Jesus promised. Part of moving through this extraordinarily challenging and painful season is learning to lament what we have lost and will lose. Fr. Matt and I also reflected on this in a recent Table Chat episode.
N.T. Wright, one of my favorite authors, recently wrote an article about lament. He says that Christianity offers no answers about the coronavirus, because it’s not supposed to. I commend the whole article to you, but here are a few quotes I wanted to share with you:
Rationalists (including Christian rationalists) want explanations; Romantics (including Christian romantics) want to be given a sigh of relief. But perhaps what we need more than either is to recover the biblical tradition of lament. Lament is what happens when people ask, “Why?” and don’t get an answer.
The point of lament… is not just that it’s an outlet for our frustration, sorrow, loneliness and sheer inability to understand what is happening or why. The mystery of the biblical story is that God also laments. Some Christians like to think of God as above all that, knowing everything, in charge of everything, calm and unaffected by the troubles in his world. That’s not the picture we get in the Bible.
It is no part of the Christian vocation, then, to be able to explain what’s happening and why. In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead. As the Spirit laments within us, so we become, even in our self-isolation, small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell. And out of that there can emerge new possibilities, new acts of kindness, new scientific understanding, new hope.
Lament, then, is part of our calling as Christians! And as we embrace the “death” of lament, we find that resurrection life and hope begins to emerge within us. May you lament well this week, trusting that you are participating in the very life of God, who laments with you, and shares his life with you.