Wednesday in Holy Week
Be pleased, O God, to deliver me. O Lord, make haste to help me!
Let those be put to shame and confusion who seek my life. Let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who desire to hurt me.
[Psalm 70:1-2 New Revised Standard Version]
One day removed from the terrorist attacks in Belgium we hear the psalmist’s urgent plea for help. At the same time, Christians are this week recalling those high and holy, disturbing and decisive events in the story of Jesus and his last week on earth.
When we witness disastrous events like those of yesterday, our initial human reactions are predictable. Our hearts are filled with anger, bitterness, even rage. The fear, grief and disappointment that follow change the way people look and think about the world and about the people associated with the act.
Even worse, we are tempted to view others with heightened concern. We put entire groups under the glare of suspicion and link them with the attackers merely because they may share the same ethnicity, nationality, or religious beliefs. Guilt by association is the common term. We ignore the fact that these people of whom we are wary are also created and loved by God and often themselves the targets and victims of those heinous crimes.
Tragedies like these also change the way we look and think about our lives and how we live them. Events like these cloud our judgment. They cause us to curse others and take our focus away from things of more value—that of a life with Jesus.
The challenge of the life and teachings of Jesus is to not let current catastrophes, or the events of history and our lives define who we are as people. Certainly we grieve the victims of the Belgium attacks. We grieve anytime we experience loss. We are frightened when terror strikes, and we are sad when misfortune occurs.
We experience what we experience and live through what we live through, yet the calling of Christ in our lives provides for us a lens through which to view those events, a filter through which to strain them that will not let us settle for being the sum of our life experiences. Instead, Jesus insists that our lives, and our selves, are best defined by our relationship and our experience with him.
His words call us beyond our trials to transformation. From anger, fear, and hatred, Jesus proposes a kingdom of peace, hope and love. The calamities in our world and our lives could justifiably leave us bitter and cynical. Christ calls us to something more even as he lives with us through our trials and tragedies, never leaving us to face our perils alone.
What has happened, whether to others or to us, shapes who we are, but it is NOT who we are. We are children of God saved by God’s grace, transformed by God’s mercy and empowered by God’s spirit to join with God in letting peace, hope and love reign in our lives and in our world.
As Christians, the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ are central in our lives. Our actions need to be seen as a response to what God in Jesus Christ has done. That is the witness of the Gospel that we bear to others and to the world.