Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Women at the Tomb

The election of a Donald J. Trump has left me feeling unmoored. Immediately following the election and all through the waning days of Barack Obama’s lame duck presidency, I cast about blindly trying to understand how this America that was revealed to me could have existed under my very nose. I felt like a happily married woman who suddenly learns that her husband has been carrying on an affair. The person you love is not the man of character that you imagined, but rather he is someone small and selfish, driven by venal desires. The America that I loved endeavored to be a beacon of liberty and hope. Our exceptionalism wasn’t based on our consumerist striving, but rather the ideals of equal opportunity and treatment under the law.

The daily assault on that image of my country has been a challenge. The impulse to march, to protest, to resist is strong and I have joined with many to honor that impulse. Marching on January 21st with millions of other women across the world to register my disapproval of a man who has built his personal brand and personal wealth on the denigration and exploitation of others energized me and brought me comfort. Retweeting a snarky meme provides momentary satisfaction, but as other mass movements over the last decade have demonstrated – something different is required. Occupy hasn’t made any progress toward income equality and BLM hasn’t stopped the state sanctioned murder of black men and women. 

The ancient contemplative practice of praying the Rosary has given me comfort and provided a useful framework for resistance. When praying the Rosary, we are called to consider the mysteries of the life of Christ. When I am feeling particularly vulnerable and lost, I rely on a mash up of two distinct modes of prayer, the Holy Rosary and the Ignatian Contemplation on the life of Jesus. This morning, as I praying on the Glorious mysteries, I considered how the disciples must have felt following the arrest and execution of Jesus. Where only a week before they had entered Jerusalem in triumph, they were now scattered, frightened and lost. In Ignatian contemplative fashion, as I prayed on the first decade and the mystery of Christ’s resurrection, I imaged the women entering the cave expecting to perform the care taking duties of women the world over. In their despair, they leaned into the comfort of providing the customary preparation of the body for burial.

There’s a lesson there. Our traditions and our customs are the wide path to the way forward. The women, along with the other disciples who happened to be male, rode into Jerusalem feeling victorious but watched in fear as the people turned on them and their message of liberation. If I look back to the week before the 2016 election, I was concerned about how to reach the Trump voters never imagining that they had no need for my ministrations. In retrospect, I cringe at my arrogance while I despair of the venality and grotesqueness of this new world.

My solace has been to follow the example of my foremothers at the tomb. While the men fled and hid, the women were steady in their commitment to the traditions and values of their community, and steadfast in their belief in Jesus. Rather than flee, they confronted the danger of being associated with the Nazarene and went to the tomb to care for him and prepare his body for burial. When they found the tomb empty, they realized the miracle and spread the word, changing the world forever.

We must be steady and we must trust that our values stand on their own. The deficient values of Trump and his enablers in Congress will not withstand the values of thoughtful people who believe in the America of opportunity and equality. Our examples of caring for the poor, the sick, the stranger is our greatest weapon in this battle for the heart and soul of our nation.    

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