34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
It’s Maundy Thursday. We are entering the passion of Jesus by way of the love Jesus shows us today: a love that frees us to fail, desert, betray and still be called friends.
Our Lenten journey began with Jesus coming down the mountain of transfiguration. He told us not to say anything about the mountain top experience until after the resurrection. (See, Don’t Speak Until You’re Spoken To). Lent is about listening for the voice of the crucified/risen one.
So, I’ve been listening.
I just returned from Guatemala City where we heard from the crucified/risen ones of that great city, particularly the 41 orphan girls burned alive last month; I’m listening. Last week we heard the news of the tragedy in Egypt where 45 were killed; I’m listening. And what about the dozens murdered by chemical weapons in Syria; I’m listening.
As we enter the passion of Jesus, hear the words of the French Catholic monk, Christian de Chergé, who was executed in Algeria by terrorists in 1996. Anticipating his death, Father de Chergé had left a testament with his family to be read upon the event of his murder. The testament in part read:
“If it should happen one day, and it could be today, that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to encompass all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to this country. I ask them to accept that the One Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure. I ask them to pray for me: for how could I be found worthy of such an offering? I ask them to be able to associate such a death with the many other deaths that were just as violent, but forgotten through indifference and anonymity.
My life has no more value than any other. Nor any less value. In any case, it has not the innocence of childhood. I have lived long enough to know that I share in the evil which seems, alas, to prevail in the world, even in that which would strike me blindly. I should like, when the time comes, to have a clear space which would allow me to beg forgiveness of God and of all my fellow human beings, and at the same time to forgive with all my heart the one who would strike me down . . . .
Obviously, my death will justify the opinion of all those who dismissed me as naïve or idealistic: “Let him tell us what he thinks now.” But such people should know that my death will satisfy my most burning curiosity. At last, I will be able, if God pleases, to see the children of Islam as He sees them, illuminated in the glory of Christ, sharing in the gift of God’s Passion and of the Spirit, whose secret joy will always be to bring forth our common humanity amidst our differences.
I give thanks to God for this life, completely mine yet completely theirs, too, to God, who wanted it for joy against, and in spite of, all odds. In this Thank You, which says everything about my life, I include you, my friends past and present, and those friends who will be here at the side of my mother and father, of my sisters and brothers; thank you a thousand fold.
And to you, too, my friend of the last moment, who will not know what you are doing. Yes, for you, too I wish this thank-you, this “Adieu,” whose image is in you also, that we may meet in heaven, like happy thieves, if it pleases God, our common Father. Amen! – Father Christian de Chergé. Excerpt From: Brian Zahnd. “Beauty Will Save the World.”