Let your whole attention be focussed on the object that you’re holding
- Today you could begin by picking up some kind of physical object, something that you can comfortably hold. It could be a cup, or a piece of fruit, a feather, or a pebble. If there is nothing else to hand, you might focus on a piece of clothing that you are wearing. Choose something and sit quietly for a moment with it.
- Now turn this object over in your hands. Look closely at it. Notice how it feels, how heavy it is, whether it is rough or smooth, hard or soft. Let your whole attention, for a few moments, be focussed on this object that you’re holding.
- Now take a second look. What is there about this object that you didn’t notice the first time around? What is it that makes it unique, one of a kind? Even if it’s something mass-produced, there will be something about it that separates it out from others of its kind.
- Spend just a little more time appreciating the object that you chose, something that is ultimately a part of God’s creation. Then listen to a short passage that is unique to the Gospel of Luke:
A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’
Try to imagine the scene on the road to Calvary
- Did you ever see the film Schindler’s List? In one scene Otto Schindler, surrounded by SS officers, watches the arrival of a consignment of Jews in cattle trucks and asks for all the trucks to be hosed down with cold water. The orders are carried out, but what seems at first to be a malicious prank is gradually revealed as an act of mercy. It is a scorching, hot day and the people in the cattle trucks are sticky with sweat and parched with thirst. As the hoses are turned onto them, they welcome the ice-cold water and struggle to catch a few drops in their hands or on their lips. One of the Nazis chastises Schindler for his action, “You are giving them hope,” he says. “You shouldn’t do that.”
- Now try to imagine the scene on the road to Calvary. Try to imagine yourself in the crowd. What is the mood like? What do you see?
- Some commentators suggest the daughters of Jerusalem are probably a company of pious Jewish women who used to go to crucifixions and give the victim a drink of drugged wine to help deaden the terrible pain. They did this as an act of charity, possibly also as a token of resistance against the cruelties of the Roman occupation. Did the relief they offered give the victims hope? Hardly, for they knew that within minutes they would be lifted up on their crosses and left to die. But they would surely see it as an act of mercy, the compassion of one group of human beings for the suffering of another. How do you make sense of acts of mercy in the face of huge suffering?
Talk to God
In what way have you been a source of hope or healing for others?
- Jesus tells these women that they should not weep for him, but for themselves. Most scholars think that Jesus is speaking about the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD – a terrible siege that ended in horrible bloodshed. Yet it is surely another testimony to Our Lord’s infinite compassion. A little later in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus will say of the soldiers who hammered the nails through his wrist and feet, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” What do you make of this?
- It is said that as Jesus stumbled under the weight of the cross on the road to Calvary a woman bystander came out of the crowd and wiped the perspiration from his face with a towel. She was rewarded with an imprint of his face on the cloth. This incident is not recorded in the Gospels and may only be a legend, but it surely reflects the truth that any act of compassion will find favour in the sight of God. In what way have you been a source of hope or healing for others? Have you come to know something more about God through acts of compassion?
- Jesus tells the daughters of Jerusalem - and us too – to weep for our own sins. In Lent we take stock of our own lives and are urged to turn completely away from sin before we help others to do the same. What things in today’s world, or in your own life, would make Jesus weep?
- You could end this time of prayer by thanking God for someone in your life who has been a source of hope or healing for you. Or perhaps by asking for the grace to be that instrument of hope and healing for others.