Thursday, March 28, 2013


Just before Holy Week, I attempted (again) to go on retreat in Louisiana. I was not able to complete it because of a death here in the parish but I did get a couple of nights in.

Across from my bed, there was an icon, possibly Byzantine, of the Crucifixion. I posted it above.

Before I shut the lights out for bed, I looked at the icon and read the inscription above Christ's head. However, in my blurry vision, I did not read "INRI" (Jesus King of the Jews) but rather it appeared to say something else.

The quality of the print, the distance from me and my bad eyesight made this into one of those word games that you fill in the missing letter.

And the word I got was "ANGRY".

I thought of how some child or uneducated person would consider the scene. A man stripped and crucified with two well dressed people on each side would perhaps be "angry".

In a cartoonish sense, it could be a word balloon and express an near irreverent thought that while the sanctity of the Crucifixion is portrayed, Jesus has one thought, "ANGRY!"

I sort of laughed at that.

Because one of the great dangers and mother of heresies is to drop Jesus into the category of "really misunderstood nice guy who people made into a god". I've heard over and over from various sources that Jesus probably was mad and confused as he died. He perhaps was despondent and thus cried out to God his complaint at the end. He was some great idiot who discovered, too late, that God wasn't his Father or Lord and he'd just made a mess of everything.

And that's when you close the Gospels and stop reading. Because it gets really supernatural and Godly after that.


Sort of describes me, a Catholic priest, at times. I get angry at things that are very far removed from the indignity of a crucifixion.

I get angry with the inconveniences of life. The flat tire. The sinus infection. The rained out retreat. The things I can't change or do anything about. The things that get in the way of what I want. That can make me angry.

When one of my nieces was a child, she cut her finger. She said that there is no reason to cry after thinking about Jesus who died for her.

I think of that often when I cut myself shaving or have an empty tank and want to lash out.

Then there are the self-persecutions.  The over-extensions or the gross laziness. The selfish backbiting and the jealousy that makes me want to reserve a banquet hall for a pity party. Enough food for one.

And I think of the women and men who attend faithfully and gently to ailing children and elderly parents. Who never scream out that they didn't sign up for this.

I remember lying on the altar at my diaconate as the Litany was sung and thought, "Whoever you guys are and whatever happened to you, I am signing up for that".

I'll lay prostrate on the altar tomorrow as the service of Good Friday begins. The day of Christ's death.

I will lay on my belly. Surrendering to everything.

Lying down is a hard position to be angry in.

 It's a position of resignation.

A position that anticipates a rising again.

Even rising above anger.