In the midst of this year of suffering
It is easy for our attention
To be drawn to the words of woe
Expressed in our Palm Sunday scriptures.
Have you felt abandoned this year?
Have you cried out,
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Have you felt abandoned as a parent,
Stripped of already meager social, economic, and spiritual resources
Available For caring for your children?
Have you felt abandoned as a single person,
Facing loneliness for months on end
In the silence of your apartment?
Have you felt abandoned as a grandparent,
who could no longer see your sweet grandchild in person,
Losing a year (and counting) of precious time
To hold them in your arms?
Have you felt abandoned as a Black person,
A person of color,
A queer person,
A transgendered person,
Who has witnessed the surge of violence
Against those relegated to our society’s margins,
Heaping fear upon your fear?
Did you weep as you listened to George Floyd’s cry for his mama?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Psalm 22 laments violence and injustice,
Foreshadowing the violent lynching
That Jesus will endure on Good Friday.
More than merely sorrow,
The psalm expresses deep fear and anger:
“Indeed, many dogs surround me,
A pack of evildoers closes in upon me;
They have pierced my hands and feet;
I can count all my bones.
Our Palm Sunday scriptures pierce our hearts
Foreshadowing the lance
that will pierce Jesus’s side
in only days’ time.
And yet, our scripture also contains
words of tenderness and mercy,
Rays of gentle light beaming
through the cracks of the tomb.
We see gentle grace
in the leafy palm branches
cut from the field
And the cloaks laid out on the street
to welcome our Lord to Jerusalem,
“Hosanna in the Highest!”
We feel the healing mercy
in the alabaster jar of perfumed oil
Broken and poured on Jesus’s head.
The woman’s work of mercy is interrogated,
“Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil?
It could have been sold for more than three hundred days’ wages
And the money given to the poor!”
And yet, the Lord accepts her mercy
And speaks words of mercy for the woman who anoints him:
“Let her alone,” he says.
“Why do you make trouble for her?
She has done a good thing for me…
She has done what she could.”
She has done what she could.
Hear the Word of Lord, O Church!
She has done what she could!
Though a pandemic rages on,
She has found ways both big and small
To pour love out to those around her.
To her children.
To her community.
To her parents.
To her grandparents.
To those most in need of God’s mercy.
She has done what she could!
Sacrificing comforts both big and small
To save the lives of others
To protect the common good,
Especially those most vulnerable to the ravages of the disease.
And even as the Lord’s words remind us of all that we have done,
They remind us that we can still do more.
Have we done all we could do to defend Black men from violence?
Have we done all we could do to defend the dignity of our LGBTQ siblings?
Have we done all we could do to stand in solidarity
With the hungry,
As we approach this Holy Week,
May we find comfort in the words of mercy poured out
Even in the midst of trial.
May we pour our mercy to those around us,
Especially as we all continue to walk through
the Valley of the Shadow of Death of this pandemic.
And may we pour out mercy to those most in need,
Doing all that we can to defend the lives and dignity of the children of God
Crying out for God’s mercy.
DR. NICHOLE M. FLORES is assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia. She speaks, writes and teaches about the significance of Catholic ethics in plural social, political, and ecclesial contexts. Her first book, The Aesthetics of Solidarity: Our Lady of Guadalupe and American Democracy will be available from Georgetown University Press in July 2021. In 2015, Dr. Flores was honored with the Catherine Mowry LaCugna Award for best academic essay in Catholic theology from the Catholic Theological Society of America.
Dr. Flores earned an A.B. in government from Smith College, an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in theological ethics from Boston College.
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