by Linda Wihl
Back in the day, mid-seventies, schools used to have “release time” for their students to attend religion classes at their own churches. I was a director of religious education and sent the bus to gather our students at the local school in upstate New York. I would meet the bus at the church door and welcome the students as they arrived. A third grader had hopped on the bus hoping to avoid a test that afternoon. As he entered the church he began to sob. I knelt down to console him and heard him cry, “Who is that man and what have they done to him?” He was staring at the cross above the altar and Jesus, pierced, bleeding, beaten had breathed his last, with outstretched arms surrendered. I began to sob too, not just because of the extreme cruelty portrayed on the cross but because of the layers of callouses that had built up on my heart so thickly that I wasn’t moved to tears on seeing Jesus’ suffering.
Billy Graham has warned about being “inoculated from the truth.” Raising our children with the stories and images is a good thing but beware that we can overlook the reality behind the stories and images. Perhaps it is a recent experience of my husband, “Transient Global Amnesia” that has me dwelling on the importance of memory, but it is so much more. My spiritual reflector recently encouraged me to meditate on the cross and handed me one he had picked up while on mission to Peru. Jesus is in excruciating (does the word stem from crucifix?) pain! He’s bleeding, his hands and feet are pierced and distended; his suffering is asphyxiating. Every bone and muscle is visible, bearing the stress. How can we look on Jesus and not sob?
This Holy Week, walk through each memory as if this is your first time. Feel the fervor of the crowd on Palm Sunday through the horror of the Cross on Good Friday. Let it move you to tears and more importantly let it stir in you the same compassion to stretch out your arms and give your all to the suffering Christ around you!
In Dear Pope Francis he shares with Nastya from Russia, “Most of all it’s up to you! Give your witness as a Christian where you live, with your family, among your friends, and in your city. You have to be a witness of the faith that you build in your heart. Pray and be a witness of the love of Jesus.” Franciscus
That’s what the women and men of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps do, stretch out our arms and share in the sufferings of Christ, where we live, with our families, among our friends and in our cities. Re-member?
Linda Wihl is the Greater Cincinnati IVC Regional Director (or as some of the volunteers call her, “the matchmaker”). As the Executive Director of Making Sense of Language Arts, she is also a service site partner and sponsor. Her favorite title is “grandma!”