- Kathleen Henderson Staudt
- I work as a teacher, poet and spiritual director at a number of institutions in the DC area. My teaching focuses in various ways on writing, poetry, Spirituality and Christian vocation and ministry - especially from the point of view of the laity. I also offer classes and retreats encouraging people to explore their inner lives, engage their creativity and reflect on their beliefs about God, vocation, and how we can discern and pursue new ways to transform our broken world. I enjoy speaking of faith in the secular academy as well as reminding those preparing for ministry in the Church that our primary purpose is to love and serve the world beyond the church's doors. I love helping people to grow in faith and to find their own voices, and I also love encouraging them to use their minds. I see no contradiction between these impulses, believing as I do that faith, reason and creativity work together.
Monday, March 25, 2013
"Stop! No more of this!” Holy Week Musings on Violence and kenosis
Jesus says this in the garden when he is being arrested. Peter has just cut off the ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave, in an effort to defend Jesus, and Jesus says -- in what I imagine is a voice of weariness and anguish: “No more of this!”
And then he heals the slave boy’s ear: the last act of healing we see him do in the gospel.
This goes with something he has just said at the end of the Last Supper, when he has warned his disciples: “Remember”, he says,” how I sent you out to preach without a purse or a sword, just relying on the good news itself to carry you? Well, now,” he says,, “you are friends of an outlaw -- time to get your purses and swords because things are going to get dark.” It’s a warning -- like the one he gave earlier in Luke’s gospel, when he said “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” “Now we’re there, “ he’s saying to them: things will start to get ugly: whoever has a sword had better grab it now.” I really think he’s speaking figuratively there though I can’t prove it -- because when they say (trying to be helpful?) “Look, we have two swords” he says (again, I imagine, with weariness:, “It is enough” -- Not, I think, as in “we have enough swords to fight the Romans.” But really, “enough violence, already.” Enough of that! (Luke 22: 38) Or as he will say in the next scene: “No more of this.”
In our time, every bit as violent as was the time in which Jesus lived, the resistance to violence that the story of his Crucifixion and Resurrection offers is profound. It is deepened for me by another lesson that we read on Palm Sunday (the second thing staying with me this week): the passage from Philippians 2 where Paul writes that Jesus, “Though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself.” This is the theological heart of the gospel -- the theological word is the kenosis, the self-emptying of God (not as a scapegoat to offer payback for our sinfulness, but in love, to show us a God who will give everything for our transformation). The one who says “No more of this!” to the violence offered on his behalf is also the God who has “emptied himself,” sharing our human experience and bearing all of the evil consequences of human brokenness, in order to open a different way. It is a mystery -- grasped more in the reading and acting out of the story than in any analysis, and I am moved by the thought of the One who made and loves us, now facing his own human death and saying “No more of this” to the violence that will culminate in his death. He heals the victim of the violence offered on his behalf, and a little later in the story, he will speak to the lamenting women of Jerusalem and protesting what is being done to him, again naming and protesting the violence: “If they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” As if to underscore the counter-cultural love he embodies, we see reconciliation happening around him, even in the extremes of this time--the rivals Herod and Pilate become friends, and in Jesus's presence the thief on the Cross is given the hope of Paradise. That's how the story is told in this part of Luke: it is all active, nonviolent resistance in the midst of a culture of violence.
Here is a God who knows all about the sinfulness, the brokenness of the world and who decides to come and bear the human consequences of it all, offering a gospel of healing and reconciliation. The message of Incarnation-Cross-Passion is, and continues to be: “You can’t kill the love , the mercy or the justice of God, because God knows it all and continues to draw us into newness of life.” That is what I am carrying into this Holy Week: Jesus as the God who takes on the broken world, in total self-offering, shows it for what it is, and calls his followers to look squarely with him at the world’s violence and brokenness , at its victims, at our own complicity. And to say with him, in faith: there is another Way: “No more of this!”