archdioceses and dioceses of the US states of Alaska, California,
Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington
or in parts of the world where the celebration of Ascension
is transferred to the Seventh Sunday of Easter, the readings
for Thursday of the Sixth Week of
Psalm 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4
Years ago, when I was a freshly minted teacher, a student had earned
a rather poor grade in a paper in one of my classes. I remember
her coming in and telling me all that went into the paper and all
the troubles in her life surrounding the paper. She began crying
as she told me these things. Suddenly, in the midst of all this
she stopped crying, looked at me and said: “But why are you
crying?” In fact I was but had not noticed it until that point.
I replied: “Because you are crying”. Then she started
to laugh and I laughed too. It was a rather amazing moment.
The readings tell us a lot today, packed with meanings and nuances
as are so many of the scriptures selected for the Easter season.
I’m most “moved” today by the reality of empathy
and dangers inherent in the lack of empathy in the readings today.
Paul finds empathy with those who believe the message of Christ.
So too, as a Jew he finds empathy with his own people although when
this is not returned and he goes off to a new people, the gentiles,
and a new place, Corinth to continue to seek out the spiritually
empathetic, those who will hear the Word. Paul even finds empathy
in profession – he stays with Aquila and Priscilla because
Aquila, like himself, is a tent maker. I once met the chairperson
of the Omaha tribe and took an immense liking to her not because
she had a much honored position (she indeed did) but because she
mentioned in her introduction that she was a hair dresser and both
my parents were hair dressers also!
Jesus in the gospel of John is very concerned with the dissonance
between the “world” and his disciples. Jesus predicts
that while the disciples weep and mourn the world will rejoice.
But Jesus will return and the disciples’ grief will turn to
joy. This recalls the beatitude: Blessed are they who mourn for
they shall be comforted. Jesus warns them of a double trial ahead,
to be sad but to be sad at a time when others are rejoicing, where
there seems to be no empathy.
Now is the Easter season when we are supposed to be filled with
joy. But how many of us know people who are in deep mourning for
a variety of losses; loved ones, capabilities, and a wide variety
of other things? Our call to empathy is to feel joy and mourning
at different times, maybe even sometimes at the same time. How many
of us, at the happiest of times have wept in sorrow too? How many
times in deep sorrow have we also found joy?
We don’t all share professions, or talents, or even religious
traditions. But we do all seek for the truth and we all have feelings
– mourning and rejoicing invite us to be empathetic with all
peoples despite and even because of what divides us. Here is a true
common ground – we can separate ourselves like those in John
who constitute “the world” or we can join ourselves
to others as does Jesus through sharing a common feeling. Empathy
can find and create common ground, open us to common home and, as
Paul sought, to common faith.
As we continue to build the kingdom we may at times sit and mourn
with others as much as rejoice. Jesus assures his disciples that
both tears and laughter are in the disciples’ future in the
reading today. Our faith tells us that ultimately joy will triumph
over grief. Jesus has triumphed over death – despite the many
kinds of death we now endure our faith assures us that our tears
will be wiped dry and our joy will be complete.
Let us assure each other with this message and never fear to weep
and rejoice with our most close family and friends and with strangers
and even, as the Gospel asks us, with those furthest from us.