Friday, March 07, 2008
“From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:45-46)
“SOUL-SURFING” – March 16, 2008
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
Each Friday evening during Lent, our Holy Cross religious community at St. Joseph Center has gathered to pray the Stations of the Cross. And while the prayers and hymns remain fairly standard year to year, the people don’t. Moving from station to station, I come into close proximity to the elder Brothers with whom I live. Often, as they stand in silhouette between me and the station mounted on the chapel wall, I can’t help but recall their unique struggles to bear the cross. At the weekly gathering to pray the stations, it’s usually more the sufferings of my Brothers that fill my mind than those of Jesus. When they suffer, Jesus suffers too.
In an article entitled “What Happens to Me Happens to God,” Rev. Lyn G. Brakeman, relates her own experience of the Jesus who sat beside her as a little girl while she suffered the effects of alcoholism in her family. She writes:
“I was afraid of a glass when I was little. I still am. This wasn’t just any old glass, though. It was triangle-shaped, filled to the brim with cloudy viscous liquid and contained two cross-eyed green olives. Like mad eyes they stared out at me and frowned. I didn’t see how the long slender stem of this glass could hold up the whole triangle and the big overweight olives as my father twirled it between his fingers and gazed at it with all the affection I wanted for myself.
“‘Lynnie went down the big slide at the playground today. Isn’t that wonderful, darling?’ my mother would say. ‘Mmmhmmm,’ my father nodded and sipped. My mother went right on taking long drags from her white cigarette, leaving little red circles at the end of it. Lynnie this and Lynnie that. No wonder my father got sick of it. Sick of me.
“I even got sick of me. All I wanted was to jump into my father’s lap, but I was afraid of the glass. Looking good and smelling fresh and sweet got me nowhere against my despised rival, so I made my way to my favorite hideout where I met God for the first time. I crawled under my parents’ big oak dining room table with five Ritz crackers I’d snitched from the cocktail tray. There were cross beams that connected the table’s four fat legs and a cloth that dropped to the floor. I laid the crackers in a row on a crossbeam, sat cross-legged on the red carpet, pulled my yellow nightie with the white lace and ribbons on it up over my knees, and talked silently with God who listened and listened without talking back.
“Under the table I convened my little community: three imaginary friends and a fourth friend I called God. My friends were Gawkie, a boy who was mischievous and never listened to my instructions, Cookie, a good little girl with blonde hair, like my mother said hers used to be, and a cousin named Cracker who came to visit every once in a while to tell of great adventures like going to the Hayden Planetarium or having a hot fudge sundae at Schraffts. My friends were invisible like God, but unlike God they didn’t listen or take me seriously.
“I had seen God in a book, so I knew he was an old, old man with a long white beard who sat on clouds and made things happen. I told God myself about the big playground slide I went down and that one of the crackers was for him. I told God about my father’s favorite glass and my jealousy. I asked God to turn the cocktail hour into the children’s hour like it said in the poem.
“In the morning all the crackers except the one I ate myself were there on the cross beam of the big table. I hoped Daddy would notice. Then I was three, well, three and three quarters, and God was ageless. We kept up our trysts on and off for years, and, as it is with all first loves, we never forgot each other even though we lost sight of each other for a time and didn’t marry at the traditional springtime of, at least my, life.
“The old man finally went to sleep like Rip Van Winkle inside me and didn’t wake up for years and years. But I didn't stop looking for my lost God. I looked for God in my achievements. I looked for God in the love of my marriage; I sought God in my children; I hung around different churches and found beauty and wisdom in liturgy and sacrament. Finally, I went to seminary to find God by studying about God.
“One night, as I strained over an assignment to write about my experience of ‘the Holy’ and stared helpless at a blank sheet of paper for what seemed hours, I suddenly found myself writing about the little girl and the God I wanted more than anything else in my life. My pages were splotched with tears, but at last I had found God in my own soul's deep voice, speaking a love that told me who I was forever, the kind of love that isn’t afraid of differently-shaped glasses, a true first love that never dies, just like under the dining room table.
“Ever since that night I have known and try to remember that what happens to me happens to God.”
(Excerpted from “What Happens to Me Happens to God,” by Rev. Lyn G. Brakeman, published in “PlainViews,” 10/03/07, a publication of The HealthCare Chaplaincy)
Our religious community will pray the Stations of the Cross one more time this season, on Good Friday afternoon, and the elder Brothers will be assembled in their pews, weighty crosses of body aches and heartaches slung over stooped shoulders. But I spy smiles upon their faces; some even smirk. They know how the story ends for Jesus and for them.
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