SUFFERING

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My sister is still Catholic

I have not been

For nearly 40 years.

The Episcopal church

Beckoned me as a friendlier,

Less threatening place.

But, be that as it may

We took my sister to mass

On Sunday despite the ice

And 12 degree temps

Normally unheard of

In North Carolina.

 

As soon as I chose

Our pew and sought

To gaze at the altar,

The huge crucifix

Alarmed me

But reminded me

Of the one I’d stared at

For all my years in Brooklyn

At St. Gabriel’s Church.

However, that one had

The blood dripping

From Jesus’ wounds

Which has stayed with me

For all these years.

A crucifix can be

Quite shocking actually

And I suppose that

May be just the point.

I have long since felt

That if one has to suffer

How can you feel

That you are unable

To bear witness?

I mean really,

Which is worse?

The suffering

Or the witnessing?

No contest there.

 

Throughout the hour long mass

I tried hard to cock my head

Enough to stare into

The face of Jesus.

I could never quite

Move into the right

Position to get it precisely.

 

My heart was pounding

And racing hard enough

To feel I might be sick

And though this happens to me

On a fairly regular basis

This time was hard,

Being in church and all.

I couldn’t pray aloud

And I couldn’t sing a hymn

Because there was

Something else

More powerful going on,

Beating, racing heart.

 

I fixated on the painting

Of Mother Mary for a bit

I identified with her some

For reasons I am about to share.

I recalled visiting the Basilica

A few years back in Rome.

I stared at La Pieta

For a very long time

With tears streaming

Down my cheeks,

So identifying with Mary

Holding her dead son

As I had held mine

A few years prior.

 

So back in the church

At the beach yesterday

I dare to share here

What might be too dramatic,

Or even blasphemous

In a way.

But the image hit me hard

And has stayed with me

For the last 24 hours.

When I got to focus

On the face of the crucified

I no longer saw Jesus at all.

But instead I saw the face

Of my own beloved son

Hanging there,

Ribs protruding,

Crucified and

Punished beyond

Any rational boundary

And suffering in

Each and every moment

While hanging and waiting

For redemption or

Forgiveness

Or resurrection.

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