Every human lives their experience in light of the cross. We all suffer our own passions, our own deaths and our own resurrections. This drama is replayed over and over throughout life. The powerful message in this is that in our sufferings and through our deaths comes resurrection.
As survivors of clergy sexual abuse, this is so important to remember. We suffer a most profound form of suffering that can endure for a very long time. The cross we carry during our passion can become so heavy we feel as if we will be crushed under it. There are times when we encounter a Simon who helps carry the burden. Jesus takes it when we are no longer able to move. We might hear the silent jeering from our own self. There could be condescending shouts from within that are meant humiliate and shame as we struggle to make our way through our hell. We cry out and beg for help, trying hard not to despair.
Pope Francis captured the pain of Good Friday in a prayer that he shared this year. Part of it follows:
O Christ! Abandoned and betrayed even by your own and sold for next to nothing.
O Christ! Judged by sinners, handed over by those in Authority.
O Christ! Suffering in the flesh, crowned with thorns and clothed in purple.
O Christ! Beaten and nailed in excruciating pain to the Cross.
O Christ! Pierced by the lance that broke your heart.
O Christ! Dead and buried, you who are the God of life and existence.
O Christ! Our only Saviour, we return to you this year with eyes lowered in shame and hearts filled with hope:...
Shame for our silence before injustices;... for our feet that are quick to follow the path of evil and paralyzed when it comes to following the path of good;
Shame for all the times that we Bishops, priests, consecrated men and women have caused scandal and pain to your body, the Church; for having forgotten our first love our initial enthusiasm and total availability, leaving our hearts and our consecration to trust.
So much shame Lord, but our hearts also feel nostalgia for the confident hope that you will not treat us according to our merits but solely according to the abundance of Your mercy; that our betrayals do not diminish the immensity of your love; your maternal and paternal heart does not forget us because of the hardness of our own;...
The hope that your faithfulness is not based on our own;
The hope that the many men and women who are faithful to your Cross may continue to live in fidelity like yeast that gives flavour and like light that reveals new horizons in the body of our wounded humanity;
The hope that your Church will try to be the voice that cries in the wilderness for humanity, preparing the way for your triumphant return, when you will come to judge the living and the dead;...
O Lord Jesus! Son of God, innocent victim of our ransom, before your royal banner, before the mystery of your death and glory, before your scaffold, we kneel in shame and with hope and we ask that you bathe us in the blood and water that flowed from your lacerated heart; to forgive our sins and our guilt;...
We survivors keep moving because there is hope, hope that our passion will end, hope that the turmoil within will someday turn to peace. We have to hope, to hang on to something, or the future seems bleak.
At the Easter Vigil on Saturday night, Pope Francis spoke of the two women who returned to the tomb, sad because of what had happened and a bit trepidatious in anticipation of what they might find.
"Two women who did not run away, who remained steadfast, who faced life as it is and who knew the bitter taste of injustice... If we try to imagine this scene, we can see in the faces of those women any number of other faces: the faces of mothers and grandmothers, of children and young people who bear the grievous burden of injustice and brutality... By paralyzing and barren bureaucracies that stand in the way of change....In our hearts, we know that things can be different but, almost without noticing it, we can grow accustomed to living with the tomb, living with frustration. Worse, we can even convince ourselves that this is the law of life, and blunt our consciences with forms of escape that only serve to dampen the hope that God has entrusted to us. So often we walk as those women did, poised between the desire of God and bleak resignation. Not only does the Master die, but our hope dies with him."
Eventually, our resurrection comes. Healing comes. Maybe not all at once; maybe just a little relief at first. Suffering again and then peace returns, but this time perhaps for a longer period time. It is enough to cause our hope for total healing to grow.
Our journeys as survivors are as individual as we are, but we have one thing in common: we all have the hope of an Easter.
"In all those places where the grave seems to have the final word, where death seems the only way out. Let us go back to proclaim, to share, to reveal that it is true: the Lord is alive! He is living and he wants to rise again in all those faces that have buried hope, buried dreams, buried dignity. ...May we allow his tenderness and his love to guide our steps. May we allow the beating of his heart to quicken our faintness of heart."