This ugly, deplorable, heartbreaking picture showed up in my facebook feed.
That’s a beautiful baby, who looks to be full-term. And there are thousands if not millions of people who cannot have babies, and who would quickly claim this little one for their own. In a world where the fullness of love is constantly being challenged by hate and emptiness, the love therein created — parent-to-child-to-grandparents and so on — would have brought a little more affirmation, a little more “yes” into a world so full of “no”; more “us” for a world full of “me.”
One wants to think that the mother of this child is someone who was frightened, panic-stricken, momentarily out of her mind. And for all we know this baby was taken from her and thrown away by someone in her life who intimidates and controls her. Perhaps the baby died at birth, and the distraught mother made a poor choice.
One wants to think that because considering the alternative — that someone could deliver this child and then simply toss him aside — takes too much.
But we do know that we live in an era of surpassing selfishness; we are a hard, cold, self-obsessed generation. We “feel” rather than think, but the depths of those feelings tend toward expressions of our anger, our hurt feelings, our offended sensibilities and our perception that life is not fair and we’re not getting all that is due to us. Other people are mean; look at how they keep me stirred up.
And because we know that we are this way — I, to my shame, most certainly — we know there is a possibility that this child was simply tossed, because disposability is part of our mindset, and because there was some facsimile of love out there that seemed more real than this burdensome being of unconditional love.
It is because we are so easily fooled by empty, non-essential things that seem like something good, like something that will cater to our love-of-self (and this has been true since Eden) that genuine Goodness had to Incarnate, and set his tent with us; genuine, unconditional love had to take that defect within us and make it his, and then defeat it. He had to show us it was defeatable.
Our Easter Triduum begins tonight, with Holy Thursday liturgies: we are going to again be shown the path that brings us to victory and defeats our defects. It is a path of heavy tolls, indeed, and the first and heaviest of them is our consent, followed by our continual “yes” no matter how much we want to say “no” and no matter how unfair it seems, just as Jesus — who could have stepped off the path at any time — continued to say “yes,” through betrayal; “yes” through flogging; “yes” through mockery and contempt, all of it unjust and unfair. The path requires our saying “yes” through every difficulty and then going forward with trust — consenting, even when it seems like the absolute end of everything.
The lesson of this Triduum is that our constant “yes” is always answered with God’s greater “yes” — even if we cannot see that of a moment — right into unfathomable glory.
The path of consent is the only one we can safely walk; we know it is safe, because the Christ has already walked it for us, but we also know — because Christ walked it — that it is difficult; its difficulty is what makes it great, and ultimately powerful.
Yes, it’s frightening. Yes, we will often stumble as Christ stumbled, because our instincts run to “no” and our “yes” is often reluctant; because we are weak, and faulty and we do cling to our comfortable little sins of pride and selfishness.
Offer a prayer for the mother of this beautiful abandoned baby who now knows more that any of us possibly can, about this world and the next, about things seen and unseen. Offer a prayer for the whole world of suffering around us, and for the people who are lights amid its darkness.
And then, let us offer prayers for each other as we power down the computers and take an introspective look at how easily we all throw away love because our instincts and feelings of a moment own us too fully.
I hope your Holy Thursday is fruitful. God bless and save us all.
Helpful Triduum Reading:
Pat Gohn: The Jesus Moment
Marcia Morrissey: Good Friday: Life is Not Fair
Deacon Greg: Holy Thursday Homily
Dwight Longenecker: One Man Died for All
Marc Barnes: A Whole Series (just keep scrolling)
Thomas McDonald: When the Desire of the Lord Comes to Us
Kathryn Lopez: Thomas More and Us
Mark Shea: As We Prepare
Tony Rossi: Thoughts on Prayer
Julie Davis: “Thou”
Pope Benedict: A Priest Never Belongs to Himself
Holy Week, Prayer and Suffering