Today I am beginning the turn towards Holy Week. Since Ash Wednesday, I have been posting daily reflections on living a vital spirituality in this technological age. For the next seven days, beginning tomorrow, I will post reflections on each of the "Seven Last Words" of Jesus from the Cross. My hope is to enter into the mystery and meaning of these days we call Holy Week. When all is said and done, I hope that the reflections that follow will further elaborate and reinforce the various dimensions of the spiritual life we have been contemplating over the previous five weeks of Lent.
Speaking of turning points...last night we launched a barrage of missiles aimed at an airbase in Syria. This constituted our response to the horrific scenes of 100 or so Syrian children, women, and men dying and suffering as a result of a chemical attack by the Assad regime. Lord, have mercy. Those who died in the chemical attack are now numbered with the half a million who have already died from countless attacks (some chemical) and the thousands more injured, and the millions more who have become refugees. Lord, have mercy.
There is much talk of lines being crossed. The Cross marks a dividing line that has been crossed once and for ALL. Above all, the Cross stands as a sign over against all dividing lines we draw in this world...and calls us to see the world as God sees, to love as God loves. Who drew these lines we now speak of in the first place? These lines establish a zone in which it somehow becomes acceptable to slaughter hundreds of thousands of people as long as it remains chemical free. Lord, have mercy.
I remember, on our trip to Israel in 2013, standing on the Golan Heights looking across the valley into Syria. As we stood there, way off in the distance, I saw a plume of smoke rising from the skyline. I wondered what that signaled. No sound, just a plume. Even that close, it all felt far away. I didn't speak about it with those who stood there with me. I don't even know if they saw it.
I don't know what I wanted to say today. But I wanted to pause at this turning point on our Lenten Journey, on the threshold of this Holy Week, to remember all that we must carry with us. Living well in this technological age means recognizing that there are burdens we must not let ourselves be free of. Jesus walks with us and teaches us how to walk with one another. How does our looking upon the suffering of others who are far away not become a form of sentimental voyeurism? How does our looking upon the Cross...as we will do in a concerted way this week...become more than a sentimental journey?
P.S. For a historical and definitive overview of this carnage, I encourage you to view the HBO documentary, Cries from Syria.