Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

O good Jesus, hear me

THIS PAINTING IS TITLED: JESUS RAISES THE WIDOW'S SON AT NAIN. Painted by  Johann Zick in 1752, it depicts the gospel scene found in  Luke 7:11-16. The young man has only been dead a short time, as Jews bury persons quickly, before sundown.

Jesus notices. He is seeing not just a series of events, but rather it is a seeing which  is reflective, interior and comprehending.  He discerns that the boy's mother is a widow, as there is no mention of a husband's presence. He notices that the funeral is that of a young man, perhaps an adolescent. Jesus puts two and two together and understands that now this woman has lost everything: she has lost her last means of support, there is no place for a woman in the work force and no social safety net to secure her.

In the painting we see her to the left of Jesus at the edge, perhaps coming out of shadow. The white light focuses our attention on the boy in his coffin, but I think Jesus really had the mother in mind. She hasn't  spoken a word, but Jesus has heard her, telling her not to cry. And while we may be tempted to think of the account as merely the restoration of the boy to life, there is perhaps the greater restoration which is that of the mother. She has been given her life back too and her place within the community.

We notice the right foot of Jesus is raised up on a stone, step or block of wood. Can we say that in his goodness, Jesus has stepped up in a confrontation with death and whatever seeks to leave us marginalized, desperate, broken and in the shadows?

"Hear me," the Anima Christi prayer asks. All human beings need and hope to be heard. I sat in a diner once and a young dad came in with his little son. They took up a booth, and while the dad set up and played with his lap top, the boy shredded up paper napkins in un-engaged boredom.

Many people who live in trouble have rejected themselves and so it's important yet again to send out the message: the Christian insight about God is that God knows and cares that we each exist:

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name,; your are Mine!" (Isaiah 43:1).

And we're invited to trust this. Sometimes the need to be heard is very deep:

The person who comes to court hoping for a fair hearing
The young adult who wants to come clean with his confession
The addict who sits at the AA meeting
The young woman who has had an abortion; the man who insisted on her having it
The patient who has just learned of cancer
The man or woman who has carried the story of abuse for decades
The people who are first responders to terrible tragedies
The girl who is cutting herself and throwing up her food

O good Jesus, hear me. The little prayer understands our dilemma: life is very complicated and dangerous. Lots of people suffer trouble or know others whose lives are stressed with difficulties and tensions. Psalm 129 was written in another part of the world, in an ancient world many centuries ago. The person who composed it understood trouble. We can only imagine. And as he has not shared the specifics of his pain, we can fill in the blanks and make the prayer our own. The psalm is called the De Profundis.The Latin word profundis gives us the word profound. We might name and touch the inner place which is deep in sorrow, loneliness, heart-ache.

Out of the depths I cry to thee, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
To my voice in supplication.

But then the psalm moves beyond troubles and ends with joy and confidence:

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
And for his word I hope.
I wait for the Lord
More than watchmen for the dawn,
Watchmen for the dawn.

Hope, O Israel, in the Lord,
For with the Lord is kindness
And with him is plenteous redemption.

But the Christian believes that the waiting is over, and God has come to us in person, with a face of his own. God has become picturable in Jesus Christ. We can sit and simply contemplate his face. "I'm all ears" someone says who is intent on giving us his or her full and undivided attention. What a gift this person makes to us in a culture of incessant talking.

I sat in a hospital waiting room and nearby there was a man who obviously was emotionally troubled. His body movements were uncontrollable, and he was unable to stop talking out loud. A nurse came through on her way to somewhere else. Recognzing him she sat down, and putting aside her papers, she listened to him intently. God is like that. O good Jesus, hear me.

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