In my church, this Sunday morning, at the Prayers of the Faithful, after all the scripted intercessions have been prayed, our prayer leader asks, “For whom else, or for what else, shall we pray?”
I hear a silence settle over the assembly, and I lean in and listen to the deep collective work that’s being done.
What follows is a birthing forth of what lays heavy in the hearts of the faithful. Prayers of deep caring for loved ones struggling with illness, prayers of sorrowing and remembrance for one of our own who has died.
For women and children killed in war-torn regions of the world. For refugees, and those in forced migration. For those whose bodies wash up on Mediterranean shores.
For moral courage in the body politic. For those who live the Gospel at great cost.
For those slain in Orlando.
What is this, I wonder.
I do not listen to the news on Sunday morning. But something tragic has happened, I can tell. Inwardly I groan as I brace for news of one more scene of madness and senseless carnage.
It doesn’t take much, I discover, to become overwhelmed with the news of random, intentional acts of madness. Not only because they occur with such frightening frequency and unpredictability. They do.
But I feel overwhelmed because we humans carry our vulnerability with us, everywhere. Our natural intuition is a life free of fear. Call it the lingering traces of a childlike spirit.
I carry my vulnerability with me when I run my errands, when I meet friends in a cafe, when I attend cultural events.
I think about this sometimes.
Jesus, too, was keenly aware of his vulnerability. Still, he traveled openly, unarmed, unafraid in the trenches of his mission field.
I sense that Jesus took seriously the words of the Psalmist: “The Lord God is my light and my help; / whom shall I fear? / The Lord God is the stronghold of my life; / before whom shall I shrink?”
Psalm 27 continues: “Though an army encamp against me / my heart would not fear. / Though war break out against me, / even then would I trust.”
How would I feel, crammed into a bathroom stall with nearly twenty others, seeking to escape a madman firing at close range?
Like Jesus, I can armor myself only with an unshakable trust in God. And I pray that these words of the psalmist will hold true in my hour of testing.
And that hour will come. My work is to armor up now, daily, in this trustful way of being in God while also being in the world.
This is what it means, I discover, to be poor, like Jesus. To have no defenses. To have only eyes and heart fixed on the Father’s willing.
Which is not to say that the death threats Jesus experienced in his public ministry did not matter. I imagine he prayed long into the night for his adversaries.
He did not want to undergo his arrest and the mock trial that dragged on through the night, nor the betrayal of the crowd, and the hideous crucifixion that awaited him.
Yet he could not trade in his mission for safety from all harm.
So where can I go with my sorrowing over the vulnerability of human flesh in my time?
In this morning’s stillness I bring to mind all those who have died this week, those whose lives have been ripped from them, those who have died in war zones, in civil strife. Those who’ve died in the shadows.
And I imagine forward to that moment in our Eucharistic liturgy when the wine is poured forth from the flask: The blood of those who have died, which now becomes the sacrificial offering, joined to the blood of the Lamb, poured out.
Every one of us, in the end, is vulnerable, poor, in our humanity. Like Jesus.
Mary Sharon Moore writes and speaks nationwide on the nature of God’s calling.