Collect for Wednesday in Holy Week
Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I recently read an account of a Civil Rights era student who integrated a Nashville lunch counter in 1960. All the protestors had been carefully prepared for what might be the response of those opposed to their peaceful sit-in. The young African-American man, only 20 years old, was spit on by an older white man. His response was to ask the man who spit on him if he had a handkerchief. The question surprised the white man, who initially reached for his handkerchief, before cursing the young man and walking away.
For me, it would take a kind of restraint which I do not know if I possess not to strike back if someone spat on me. The young Civil Rights student wanted the white man to see him as human, worthy of respect, unwilling to meet violent anger with an equally violent response. In order be able to hold back, to practice non-violence, the students had been trained in the teachings of Jesus and Gandhi.
As Jesus is taken into custody and gives himself over to the journey that will end at the cross, there are many who see him as deserving of punishment, of abuse, of disregard. So, they strike him and spit on him. They treat him, not as an equal, but as someone, or rather something that can bear our most base responses and actions.
As Jesus goes towards the cross, he remains human. The people who attack and ridicule Jesus along the way lose a critical piece of themselves as they choose to treat a man as less than human.
In the Incarnation, Jesus enters our world in order to teach us how to live, how to be in right relationship with God and the world. Even at the cross, Jesus is teaching us how to be human. He teaches us how to remain real and grounded even as the ground beneath his feet gives way to evil, both human and demonic.
This Collect is not a prayer to be prayed by someone in an abusive relationship. It is not a divine endorsement for domestic violence. Rather, it is a repudiation of such action.
Jesus, who we confess as both divine and human, shows us the right path to walk in this world, as humans invited to grow up and take on the mind of Christ. To the end, Jesus remains whole, even as he is broken on the cross. In destroying death, Jesus also destroys any excuses for why one person should ever believe they have the right to treat another person as anything less than a child of God.
Jesus was broken on the cross in order to expose as impotent all the cycles of violence that still degrade our humanity. Now, in this season of an invisible virus, may we make visible all the ways in which God desires us to be for each other, to care for each other, to practice the gifts which make the Body stronger.
The young Civil Rights student had a purpose, a vision of what could keep him at peace while violence stood before him. Jesus goes to the cross, clear that Divine Love does not abandon him in the unruly moment.
As a scattered people now, remember we belong to a communion of saints. They are both with us now and in eternity. They kept the faith in times of trouble and tribulation, in times of joy and deliverance. Their ancient wisdom is in us. We can also keep the faith. We can be one Church, scattered, but not divided. Broken, but not crushed. Seeking mercy, finding joy.