Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Giving up Apathy (3rd in a series)

"When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, 'Woman, here is your son.' Then he said to the disciple, 'Here is your mother.'” (John 19:26-27a, NRSV)

Jesus continues to hang on the cross, suffering and slowly dying a very painful death. Every breath was difficult and painful. Imagine doing pull-ups. When you’re doing pull-ups, it’s hard to inhale when your hanging all the way down. You have to pull yourself up and inhale on the way up. Then you exhale on the way down. So in order to take a breath, Jesus had to pull his body up, his hands and feet putting pressure on the nail wounds. With each motion going up and down, his already raw back would rub against the rough cross. He also had to angle his head so the thorns don’t hit the cross and push back at his skull.

Soon, the lack of oxygen and dehydration cause his muscles to cramp, making him try to shift as far as he possibly can to prevent it, adding to the pain and misery. Perhaps the mocking and verbal abuse was still going at that time. But the focus of the story shifts, like a camera zooming in from a wide angle to a tighter shot spotlighting what was happening beneath the cross of Jesus.

Some of the women followers of Jesus were there. So was his mother, Mary and his disciple John. Amidst the yelling of the angry crowd, amidst his own personal suffering, even when it was extremely difficult to talk, let alone breathe, Jesus focuses his attention on his mother and her pain. He made sure she was cared for during her time of emotional suffering.

Come to think of it, Jesus had enough reasons not to care. He had enough valid reasons to not even notice the suffering of Mary. He had bigger problems and sufferings of his own. But instead of apathy, Jesus chose compassion.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus is known to do this. While he had his own concerns to deal with, he took time to show compassion. Even when he was on a tight schedule, he would go out of his way to help, heal or listen. When he was arrested, Peter tried to defend him by cutting-off the ear of one of the guards. What does Jesus do? He heals the man. He doesn’t say, “Well that’s your problem. I’ve got a bigger issue here. I’m being arrested.”

God is calling us to give up apathy.

Lent is a 40-day journey that mirrors Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, where he struggled with his temptations and had to give things up, things that were hindrances to his life’s mission. Thus, Lent is a yearly spiritual wilderness journey where we confront our greatest temptations head-on and try to identify things in our own lives that we need to give up because they are hindrances to our fully following Jesus.

But more than just chocolate, we’re learning that there are deeper issues and attitudes that God may be calling us to deal with and give up. So far we’ve learned that we are called to give up anger and bitterness and grow in forgiveness. We’re also called to give up our judgmental ways and grow in grace and acceptance.

We’re trying to learn some of the deeper things God may be calling us to give up, by looking at what Jesus needed to give up when he denied himself and carried his cross.

Today, God is calling us to give up apathy. It is the lack of interest or concern. It is insensibility, indifference.

Apathy could come in the form of the blatant, “I don’t care.” Sometimes it comes in the form of, “I see the problem but I don’t want to be involved.” Other variants of this are: “That’s not my problem. I’ve got my own problems to deal with.” Or, “Well, that’s the least of my concerns.” And sometimes it comes in the form of, “Sorry, I’ve just got other stuff to do.”

We have to be honest. We have found ourselves acting apathetic and saying these things, maybe in varying forms and degrees, but apathetic just the same, not just to strangers in need but even to friends and loved ones. And we know the painful sting of being in need, asking for help and receiving a cold, “I don’t care!”

Friends, Lent is serious soul work. It is not a mere sentimental and emotional journey of remembering Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. It is preparing ourselves to truly live. In my devotion yesterday, Fr. Richard Rohr said, "We need to deeply trust and allow both our own dyings and our own certain resurrections, just as Jesus did! This is the full pattern of transformation."

We are to "die to ourselves so that Christ may live in us." We are to give things up so that we may learn how to truly live. And so more than just chocolate, God is calling us today to give up apathy, in whatever forms and degrees we find ourselves living that, and grow in compassion.

Your fellow disciple,

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