Surrendering his life on the cross out of love for all creation, Jesus somehow places himself (and therefore God) in solidarity with all suffering. Black Catholic theologian M. Shawn Copeland challenges those who would follow Jesus to likewise grieve in solidarity with humanity’s suffering through the centuries:
To know and to follow Christ crucified is to know and love those children, women, and men who are poor, excluded, and despised, made different and unwelcome, lynched and crucified in our world. . . .
If we would follow Christ crucified, we would hear the echoes of ululation and bitter weeping in Gaza and in Rafah, in Baghdad and in Beirut, in Cairo and in Kigali. . . .
If we would follow Christ crucified, we would press to our hearts the tears that flowed from the eyes of Cherokee, Seminole, and Choctaw children and women and men who limped through the cold and hunger from Oklahoma to Arkansas and Alabama and Mississippi. . . .
If we would follow Christ crucified, we would recover the tears that fell on the floors of the camps at Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Sobibór. . . .
If we would follow Christ crucified, we would retrieve the tears that flowed from the eyes of children and women and men who crowded into flimsy boats and old trucks and shipping containers to suffocate and die in front of fences strung across the desert, at abandoned check points on the outer edge of rural towns, and at heavily guarded borders near rivers and waterways. . . .
If we would follow Christ crucified with attention, reverence, and devotion, we would recognize that the tears and blood and moans of the innocent have been absorbed into the air we breathe, have seeped into our streams and . . . oceans, into the earth in which we plant and from which we harvest and eat.
If we follow with attention, reverence, and devotion the moans and tears of the brutalized and burned, raped and mutilated, enslaved and captive across the centuries, we are led to the ground beneath the cross of the crucified Jewish Jesus of Nazareth. . . .
If we, who would be his disciples, recall the night before he died, we are led to a table, from a table to a garden, from a garden to a courtyard, from a courtyard to a hill, from a hill to a grave, from a grave to life. The table holds the self-gift of his very flesh and blood; the garden is watered by his tears and blood; and the cross holds him, even as the One whom he knows and loves lifts him up from the grave to release him into the surprise of hope and life.
[Richard here: The Paschal Mystery we honor this Holy Week cannot be made clear for Christians without Christ’s surrendering love to God. It begins with the Incarnation and culminates in the Resurrection—for him and for each of us!]
M. Shawn Copeland, Knowing Christ Crucified: The Witness of African American Religious Experience (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2018), 133, 134–135, 137.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Richard’s Franciscan perspective on the cross.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Leaves (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Jenna Keiper, Christ Figure from the Office of Richard Rohr (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Jenna Keiper, Web (detail), 2021, photograph, Washington, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States.
This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: Fallen leaves in water surrender to the cycles of seasons. A spider’s web catches and kills a passing fly. Can we surrender to these moments too? Death is an invitation to slip beyond the web of knowing. What might we find if we allowed the cycle of death and resurrection in our own lives?
Story from Our Community:
My father died July 3, 2021. I was with him as his body became cold, when he cried out his last words, and his breath left his body. I have been a Christian all my life yet this loss has really caused a crisis in my faith. I no longer feel his presence. All my life I have believed in heaven, believed in the resurrection of Jesus, but what about me? What about my Dad? Is this all there is? Is he really gone?
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.