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December 27, 2013

I’m called ‘Doubting Thomas.’ But of all of them. I was the only one who proposed. “Come, let us go to Jerusalem and die with him.” But it was long ago, a thousand yesterdays, when I who could be called ‘Thomas the Brave’ proposed a communal Calvary.

Today I come to you – yes, you – and say, “Look out your windshield or into the window of your television, and let us go up to Neon Jerusalem and die with him. Come along with me to the city park of Gethsemane, where Jesus suffers the sweaty-palm agony of the sick and those dying of the deadly diseases, AIDS and cancer. Tomorrow is their Good Friday; tonight their lonesome vigil. Come let us go and die with him.

“Come and look – stare if you like – Jesus is stripped of his clothing, exposed to shame in those stripped of their jobs, naked by the loss of their homes and possessions, disrobed of their dignity.

“Come, stand and watch, helpless by habit, as Jesus is mocked and ridiculed by the centurions of society, in being the butt of crude minority jokes and tongue-cutting, clever discrimination humor. Join the crowd and let your silence or laughter lash away at him.

“Don’t turn away from the pain; see the crown of thorns upon his head in the form of each one who is mentally ill, their foreheads pieced by deep depression. There he is as a bag lady muttering to herself, or, there, see him sitting and staring out the window of a ward.

“See the crowd presses closer, and you can view him being scourged by physical or mental abuse. Watch, don’t turn away your prudish eyes: see him sexually abused in a confused and forever crippled little child. Genuflect if you like, or bow in reverence.

“Turn your head, we’re passing a prison: behind those walls and bars sits Jesus as an innocent man or woman – even in those guilty of some crime. Jesus – in the person of one unjustly tried and condemned lacking a clever lawyer, or a victim crippled by poverty or a broken home – is caged in a crowded cell.

“Come with me up Main Street of Neon Jerusalem; watch Jesus go by in all disabled persons carrying their crosses in the daily passion parade and in those back-bent with the heavy burdens of life. Where is a Simon of Cyrene, Texas or Minnesota, who will lift a hand to raise a wheelchair, open a door or lift with compassion the cross they bear. Ah, how quickly he has passed.

“Come with me, let us go up the trashy hill of 10,000 Calvarys, look how in the body of the needy they have nailed him secure for life to the icy cold cross of poverty. Stand with me at the foot of the millions of crosses shouldered in the midday darkness of helplessness. Listen to that piercing cry riding on the wind of a year of Good Fridays, ‘My God, why, why have you abandoned me?’

“Come let us go up to Neon Jerusalem and die with him – suffer with him, be shamed with him, be imprisoned with him, feel the lash of laughter, be mocked for lack of money, sweat blood with him in a slow painful death and hold out our hands to be nailed for life.”

You’re late, have pressing matters to attend to, oh yes. You don’t want to get involved, obedient to your culture’s commandment. “Mind your own business.” I understand – I of all understand. I too was afraid to get involved: the risk you know was really great. I understand: brave words come easy, it’s defeat and shame that test convictions. Remember, I’m Doubting Thomas, even to this day, I’m your patron. Can he…he be dying of AIDS? Can he really sit in the chair of an electric cross and die: aren’t only criminals condemned? O doubting disciples who turn away from ugliness and brokenness, saying to yourselves: “Surely this is not the Chosen of our God.” Take consolation, I know your thoughts.

I doubt today, as long ago, but I doubt that you really believe that he is risen and among us. I doubt seriously that if on meeting someone homeless or broken on Main Street of Neon Jerusalem, you would say, “My Lord and my God.”
Edward Hays – Prayers of A Planetary Pilgrim.


From → my words

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