April 18, 2019 | Reflections from Sr Antonia

The Pieta – Jesus College Cambridge


“All who pass by this way look and see: is any sorrow like unto mine?”
Lamentations 1:12

Who is it who speaks thus? And what is this terrible sorrow that is being voiced?
It could be the sorrow of a mother, Mary the mother of Jesus.
It could be the sorrow of another mother, the mother of a victim.
It could possibly be the sorrow of another mother… the mother of a perpetrator.
And it is also the sorrow of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, likening himself to a mother hen.
Yes… it is the sorrow of the mothers, weeping for their children.

“A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and weeping, Rachael weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted”.
Jeremiah 31:15

But what about me I wondered? Am I too weeping, mourning, and grieving? Or do I prefer to” pass by on the other side?”

The Greek word Odune, the title for this reflection, translates as ‘consuming grief, pain, sorrow’. It is used in Romans 9:2

Pondering this, what came to mind was the people of Christchurch NZ who have walked the path of sorrow magnificently, powerfully, gracefully and in the process, have made a statement to the rest of the world…a statement about truth, love, forgiveness. Look! Take notice; don’t be blind to what they are actually doing. No sign of judgment; no blame, vitriol or hatred. Just odune… sorrow.

Our present situation in Australia is different. They in NZ are sorrowing over a wrong done to them whereas we need to sorrow over a wrong that we (the Church in Australia) have done to others. Yet, there is one fundamental similarity… that of violent acts against innocent people, including children. Why can’t we as a Church, with our leaders out in front (like New Zealand’s Prime Minister) express our profound grief, pain, sorrow at what has been perpetrated I wondered? What if… What if (for example) the members of the Australian Bishops Conference and thousands of Catholics, lay men and women with them, were to march from Sydney’s Martin Place to St Mary’s Cathedral carrying placards saying: “We are sorry”; walk our own path to Calvary just as Jesus walked that path? What if we were to do something like that?

What I sense more than sorrow in these dark days however is fear, and I could be wrong here, but I also sense that fear and sorrow are mutually exclusive. And I believe that it is to sorrow that we must turn; to sorrow that we must look; toward and into sorrow that we must walk… without fear.

If we are angry then we are already on this road. So also with denial, guilt, bargaining, rage, disbelief, disgust, a sense of betrayal, numb. All are expressions of sorrow and grief. All are indications that we are walking the road of sorrow. And if a new Gospel oriented Church is to emerge from the ashes, then we must simply keep on walking it, move into the centre of it, feel the raw savagery of it.

As I write I am reminded of the hymn we sing on Palm Sunday:

“Ride on ride on in majesty, your last and fiercest fight is near;
The Father on his kingly throne awaits his own anointed Son;
Ride on ride on in majesty, in simple state ride on to die;
Submit to suffer mortal pain, resume then God your power and reign.”

No collective public apology will be real unless individuals walk this road to Calvary with Jesus. Bishops must, priests must and so must we all. We must not shirk this responsibility. We have a critical choice to make, the choice between despair, hardheartedness or sorrow.

Hardheartedness is a dangerous choice, allowing an escape route that finds its security in the murky depths of judgment, condemnation and projection. Carl Jung explains this journey well…it is a journey whereby I refuse to admit as I look directly at the sinner that: “There too go I” In other words that by the fact of my humanity I too am capable of any sin that any other human being is capable of. It means we are all flawed human beings. Jesus said it even better: “Let he/she who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Fear lurks under hardheartedness.

Despair too is a dangerous road leading to powerlessness and impotence.

Fear lurks under despair.

The choice to allow sorrow in, on the other hand, is the road that finds its fulfilment in the clear waters of compassion, humility, repentance and mercy as we acknowledge that “there too go I”.

As I reflect on this I am drawn again to the image of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. He weeps over all of us now as he sees us drowning in the sea of vitriol, fear, hatred, guilt, rage, projection, scapegoating and every other kind of ugliness that is presently manifesting itself, as it did at Calvary.

And in the midst of it all is


And… Rachael weeping for her children.

And so I ask myself with as much honesty as I can muster: And what about you? Will you walk away too”?