Lent means always walking up that awful hill. The road to Golgotha can be so long, tedious, difficult. And at the top? Crucifixion. And then the grave. Lights out. Despite that, therein lies the beauty of our story. It's about a guy who didn't want to go there anymore than we do. But we can't get to Easter without it.
Recently, my friend's son, who was in his early thirties, died here in Canada. His hell on earth ended suddenly, and in my mind, he now rests in the heart of God, whatever that looks like. For his family, though, that can offer limited comfort. Questions about what might have been appear behind bloodshot eyes at 3 a.m. The news seems to arrive over and over again: “I’m sorry to inform . . . Nothing more we can do . . .”Berta Cáceres'
assassination in Honduras during this year’s Lent means that other children, parents and communities join the procession to Golgotha also. Cáceres, 45, was known globally for her work to protect land and citizens from flooding caused by hydroelectric projects.
And in El Salvador, an international coalition of churches is meeting during this holy season to stare down unprecedented street violence, which has given that small country the unnerving label, “murder capital of the world.” My husband, former United Church Moderator Bill Phipps, is with the United Church delegation travelling to the peace conference with Moderator Rt. Rev. Jordan Cantwell
and three congregations with ties to El Salvador. The United Church members will offer solidarity to its partner churches in San Salvador, including Emmanuel Baptist Church. Its minister, Rev. Miguel Tomás Castro, is a principal organizer of the conference — and is Bill's colleague and friend. Castro has conducted far too many funerals for murdered young people; he hopes to learn more about how the work of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission could be used in his own country.
Around the world, the shock of sudden death alternately numbs, then electrifies the body and soul. After funeral decisions end, family and friends depart, phone calls stop, and you find that your life contains an abyss. The job forever and ever amen is to avoid falling in.
During Holy Week, the last days leading to Good Friday, I walk with Mary of Nazareth. We have to support each other, lest we stumble and fall. When one falters, the other offers strength.
On that terrible Friday, no one would have blamed Mary if she had hidden away in a dimly lit room. I imagine that her friends would have stayed with her, brought cups of tea, and held her hand as she waited for someone to come down from Golgotha and say, “It's over.” Surely, that’s what parents whose children end up on death row might want to do: go somewhere, hearing that unending high violin note, until a soft knock on the door announces, “It is finished.”
But Mary didn't do that. She went with the others, some jeering, weeping or stunned to silence. She wanted her child to know that she was there, loving him to the end, sending him energy and praying with a heart slowly crumbling inside her chest. No. Not crumbling. Her heart was beating strong for her son because he was scared, tired and filled with pain.
These days, I feel Mary walking with all of us through the rough streets of Jerusalem, Honduras, Syria, India, El Salvador, America or Canada. No matter how steep this hill, we are not alone.