Spirited Reflection: Feast of Christ the King, from South Sudan
Last Sunday in the Season of Jesus’ Teaching and Healing Ministry (Also called ‘Ordinary Time’)
This sounds like a triumphant feast. But it isn’t. At least not in the gospel and in the lives of people in this war-torn country of South Sudan. Nor for our suffering neighbours in Haiti, Canada and Syria. Jesus had the courage to confront injustice and those who oppressed the poor. . . directly. He paid the price for opposing the temple system which was the political, economic, social and religious centre of life in Jerusalem. Although he dreaded the rejection and suffering, he became a suffering, crucified king, faithful to his love for the excluded and to God’s great compassion for the oppressed. There is no doubt that the risen Christ is a shepherd – king. . . caring passionately about his people.
With our sisters and brothers in South Sudan, I share the hopes, sorrows, griefs, pain and joys of all. It is a privilege, every day, to be here with them, in my new country. As I finish reading more than two hundred interviews with people in UN camps for the displaced, I hear their words echoing in my heart, “I am always hungry.” “I am happy when I can give my children tea for their breakfast.” From fear of attacks, robberies, from lack of sufficient bore holes for water and from hunger— most suffer tension, grief, headaches, stomach aches, joint pain and sleepless nights, probable signs of the trauma they have endured.
For me, their tears – and mine – cry out for a tidal wave of justice within South Sudan and globally. How can a nation like Canada close its eyes to business that provides armoured vehicles through another country to South Sudan? How can any country provide ‘aid’ in the form of arms to SS? How can the UN actually provide the peace-keeping it promises? The tears of children, men and women, my tears, your tears, our tears flood the churches, the land, drowning the illusions of power, prestige and property among the gun class (here and around the world).
In my work throughout South Sudan of teaching people how to give Psychosocial Support /Healing from Trauma Workshops, I have discovered that participants really value discussion about healthy and unhealthy ways to grieve and cry, to express the energy of anger, and to use the gift of sexuality. At first some say that men don’t cry. But then we look at the excessive drinking, smoking and reliance on prostitutes to deal with their grief. We consider alternatives; such as, saying to a friend – not one who will just give another drink – “I really miss my wife/husband, child. Could I tell you about her/him? Perhaps we can walk and talk together.” Some can write, sing and/or dance their grief and anger. People can do this together. Since faith is deep here, most find strength in prayer.
My watercolour painting, “Too Much” expresses some of the tears we carry in our hearts. It is a prayer to God to remember compassion and to heal us.
Yes, the Christ is a king in all weakness. In July, I took a month of silent retreat, with no email, phones or books other than the Bible, to wrap myself in a cocoon to heal and be strengthened. One day, it seemed that scales fell from my eyes.
Although I’ve relied on Paul’s messages, “My power is at best in weakness” and “When I am weak then am I strong,” I realized that I had turned to these messages as a last resort when life was tough. Not meant to be so. Jesus’ way is weakness.
The Christ is king of hearts, king of love. And God cannot stop loving us, no matter what we may do. I know God crying with us, laughing with us and surprising us beyond imagining. God’s overwhelming love for us caresses and heals us. Let us give God plenty of time to console us daily. Let us take time to enjoy God too. Our times need people who trust and dare so deeply that we can draw abundantly from the source of love, from the shepherd who longs to renew us and work wonders of powerful love and healing through us. God’s ways are bigger than our dreams.
Such vision makes us pulse with life and hope, bearing fruit in God’s way. May God’s reign fill us, surround us, radiate peace for our hurting world. God’s reign sprouts up as healing, non-violent communities, evident in thousands of ways. Everywhere. At all times. No one can stop it. God is doing a new deed. Can’t we see it?
Sister Barbara Paleczny PhD/SThD (firstname.lastname@example.org)
With roots for thirteen years on Boards of the Canadian Ecumenical Social Justice Coalitions, Barbara Paleczny, a Canadian School Sister of Notre Dame, lives and breathes KAIROS priorities. As a member of Solidarity with South Sudan, she has lived in South Sudan for eight years, teaching in Solidarity with South Sudan’s teachers’ colleges and giving Healing From Trauma/Psychosocial Support Workshops, Women – Carriers of Peace and Men – Protectors of Peace workshops. Her priority now is teaching others how to give Psychosocial Support workshops throughout the country.