you will reach hope

We’re getting serious today . . . I usually try to keep this as light as I can for my own sanity, but I felt compelled . . .


Sometimes I find I’ve grown numb to headlines.  I read the news throughout the day almost obsessively in my pitiful procrastinations, especially when I have student writing to read.  I would much rather read Google News updates than yet another essay on why general education requirements are a waste of time.  In fact, just opening up a student file and seeing that title uh-gain is an open invitation for a few more mindless minutes of wandering on Facebook or Google News.  It’s another blog post entirely.  But this morning during my reading, I came across a headline that gripped at my heart–the story of the Swiss woman who was brutally gang raped while her husband was beaten and forced to watch, tied helplessly to a nearby tree.

The story itself is almost commonplace, the kind of headline that in our unceasingly violent world I have grown numb to.  But what wrenched me awake today was the fact that the officials in India are suggesting the vacationing couple are somehow responsible for their brutal attack because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, because they did not notify police and inquire into the safety of the area.  I began reading more about violence against women in India and the young woman who died from a similar rape a few months ago, a gang rape that occurred aboard a public transit bus.  Both women were accused of complicity in their attacks because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  A respectable woman would not ride the bus alone.  A respectable woman would not camp with her husband in an unknown area.  If she does, she is letting it be known she deserves whatever she gets.   She is prey to be preyed upon.  Granted many in India are speaking out against this horribly unjust thinking, but the fact remains there are still both men and women who condone violence against women around the world.  I read another quote somewhere that said, for women in war zones, there is never a peace time.  I say for women everywhere, there is never a peace time.  If you can walk through a dimly lit parking lot late at night in your city without once thinking about your safety, good for you!

This last week of Lent I am going to be saying extra prayers for peace and healing–for the victims of sexual violence, for the men who falsely find power through violence, and for the women and men who are afraid to speak out against it.  For many people of faith, later this week we celebrate Passion or Palm Sunday, which commemorates Jesus’ entering Jerusalem as the long-awaited Messiah of the Jewish people, the Prince of Peace.  We wave palm branches and line his path, rejoicing in his triumphant message of hope, love, and redemption.  This victory parade was short lived because as you know Jesus would soon be betrayed and crucified, and the day will be a reminder for us all of the suffering he would endure at the hands of his accusers, of the suffering that remains a part of our world today.  But if you don’t follow the passion narrative through to its end and only see the tragic irony this Sunday, that just as soon as Jesus enters into the city crowned a king he is betrayed and brutally murdered, you can remain hopelessly fixated on the unjust violence.  On the rape of the Swiss woman.  The beating of her husband.  The betrayal of the community who blame them.   These injustices are indeed tragic and make one feel hopeless, as I am sure they make many young women in parts of the world feel hopeless and very afraid.  But if instead you follow the passion story through to its end and you believe, as I do, that God shows us his mercy and gives us new life, you will reach hope.  And when you get there, you will do whatever you can to bring others along with you.

You cannot hurry the Passion narrative.  It slows us down as it unfolds.  It makes us look even when we would rather turn away.  We want to evade parts of the last day of his life because, to be frank, it is a story of shocking brutality.  But then again, this is not only his world, it is our world.  We hold life to be dear, but there are parts of the world where life is cheap.  Contemplating the wounds of Christ we see our wounded world.  The victims of rape, the persecuted Christians, the casualties of war, the needlessly starving children in a world of plenty.  Now, admittedly we need optimism to make progress in the world.  We would never work to improve things if we did not believe that it was possible to make a difference.  We need, though, also to be realistic about human nature.  Human beings are capable of great love or great hatred; of generosity or malice.  Jesus calls us to love and generosity and mercy, and through his suffering he shows how much these things are needed.  – from “A Palm Sunday Reflection with Fr. Terry” at Independent Catholic News



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