He said to them,
“How foolish you are,
and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things
and then enter his glory?”
I know what she meant – that big thing seems, well, too bloody Gothic for a real evangelical. We like our crosses clean and shiny, not adorned with the semi-clad body of a suffering Jesus. Somebody put up three crosses in a new subdivision here, right along the street. Nice. Comfortably pious. They’re all empty. I can’t imagine the same person would put them up adorned with bodies – that would be unsettling, even, well, unpleasant.
We’re all about “resurrection,” after all. Evangelicals want to tell the story of holy week by way of its grand finale, a rolled-away stone and burial garments folded neatly as if the grave were little more than five-star hotel.
Traditionally, at least, that perspective is not as true of Roman Catholics – and certainly not Mother Teresa, who led her life as someone who believed deeply that “sharing Christ” had less to do with putting a fish on her bumper, a cross on her lawn, or a tract in a toilet stall than placing herself as close as she could to his suffering self every last day of her life. Honestly, that idea is as foreign to an evangelical mind like mine as Jesus Christ clothed in feathers and beads as a Dakota warrior.
Mother Teresa thought of herself, remember, as “his bride,” and her longing to be with him actually began on the cross, in his passion. She wanted to suffer with him, to hurt, to thirst. She wanted nails through her hands, if not literally, metaphorically. She wanted to be up there on that cross, sharing the pain of his broken body. She looked forward to pain. She relished it. She made his misery her joy. The crosses in her lives weren’t clean, weren’t bright, weren’t shiny; in no way, part of an attractively thought out -bit of sanctified landscape design.
Mother Teresa “longed for a complete union with Christ,” her spiritual biographer says; and because she did, she “could not do otherwise than be united to Him in His suffering” (25).
My sister couldn’t just toss that big crucifix, and her brother can’t either. It stays right up here on my wall. It seems to me that the image of the suffering Christ is something I missed, growing up Calvinist, growing up Evangelical. It may well not have been part of my world, but it can’t be edited out of the story, not even for pious reasons.