Monday, 6 April 2015

Mary the Mother of Jesus

I love you, but I can’t look at you.
I can’t look at you, but I can’t leave you.
You are my child, my son, my own flesh, my...blood.
You are a part of me.
You will always be a part of me.
So how can I look upon your face
when your flesh is ripped to shreds
and your bones are on display?
Oh, the unspeakable ache!
This pain is worse than childbirth.
At least that pain had a purpose.
But is happening to you...
What’s the point?!
In pain I brought you into this world
and with a deeper pain still all I can do is watch
as you are ripped from it.
But I can’t watch.
I can’t look.
I love you, but I can’t look at you.

What is a mother to do?
Once I held you in my womb.
Once I held you in my hands.
But now, now you are beyond my grasp.
I cannot reach you.
You cry out in agony and I cannot comfort you.
I cannot cradle you in my arms and hold you close to my heart.
I cannot soothe you and speak tenderly to you.
What is a mother to do?
Abandon you?
Abandon you like everyone else?
They have all left.
All the so-called faithful have left.
You are betrayed.
There are only a few of us who have stayed.
They said I was blessed, but I must be cursed.
I thought I was blessed, but I must be cursed.
What a fool I was!
I was so foolish to be so faithful!
I was only a child then,
when the messenger came bearing the good news that I would bear a son.
How foolish I was to believe that I had found favour with God.
God, I trusted you! I trusted you!
But where are you now?!
Where are you now, O Mighty One?
Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress (Ps 102).
Once you looked upon me with favour.
Will you ever look at me again?
Let your face shine on your servant,
save me in your unfailing love (Ps 31).
Save me.
Save your servant.
Save my son.
Save your son.
If you love me, will you not look at me?

You look at me.
You, my son, whom I love,
and in these moments before you die, you look at me.
With your dark and endearing eyes you comfort me.
In this darkening light you soothe me.
I am held in your gaze and my fear goes away.
With tender words
- with a genuine affection and a gut-wrenching ache -
you speak and console.
‘Dear women,’ you say, ‘here is your son.’
You speak of yourself and the one whom you love.
I love you.
I can’t help but look at you.
I lift my eyes and I wonder,
where does our help come from?
I wait, in hope, to see.
© Catherine Burton March 2015

The Good Thief

How did I end up here?
Up here.
People looking up to me.
My whole life I have been hiding,
                Shifting through the dark,
                committing sin, always...always stuffing it up!  
But now I am on display,
                my whole life is open and exposed for all the world to see.
In the harsh light of day, the course of my miserable life is marked out for me.
X marks the spot.
I am held to this cross.
There will be no sly escape.
I am ready to face my guilt.
I am ready to take the blame,
                because I have brought such shame on my family’s good name.
Oh, my deeds of disgrace!

That’s how I ended up here.
Up here, with people looking up to me.
Don’t look up to me!
I am a malicious man with a murderous spirit.
I am a man in desperate need of mercy.
Justice has been served.
This is what I deserve.
I am the one who has done wrong.
‘Guilty,’ I plead, as my body breathes and bleeds.
I am charged with guilt.
My whole being is flawed and defected, covered in imperfection.
Soon my breath will end.
Soon my blood will congeal.
Soon my life will be over,
                it will finish,
                this suffering will finish and I...I don’t know...
maybe when it all ends it will be alright.
Maybe all will be right in the end.
Hell! I hope this is the end!

It is the end for me, and righteousness is right here beside me.
We made the long, staggering journey toward our deaths, the three of us together.
Through the crowded streets where people called our names,
or called us any name under the sun.

‘Sons of whores!’
‘Sons of hell!’
‘Son of God!’ some would yell.
He’s doing it now.
My contemporary, my colleague, my partner in crime.
‘You say you’re the Son of God. Save yourself! And save us!’

He’s saying the words I want to say, but in a different way.
‘You say you’re the Son of God.
Will you save yourself?
Will you save us?
Will you?’
What a strange place to meet a saviour.

How did I end up here?
Up here, with this lot.
A trio: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Our lot has been cast.
The good one, he got it bad.
Fixed to a cross like a sail to a mast.
A cut-throat death for an unblemished lamb.
The other, his words are ugly; he casts insults and hurls abuse.
‘Don’t you respect God?
Don’t you know this man next to us is innocent?’
I can’t help it. I cry out.
‘Jesus, when your kingdom comes, will you remember me?’
When your freedom comes, will you remember me?
Will you?
Because my judgement has come, justice has been done.
I am done.
My whole life I have been hiding.
My whole life I have been seeking.
I’ve always had this inkling,
                that life is more than what I can snatch and grab.
I want my life to be for your taking and keeping.
‘Truly,’ you say, ‘you will be with me today.’
I’ve never been so sure as right now,
when you are right here, next to me.
Right across from me.
A cross...
Here, for the first time in my life I feel free.
Here, for the first time in my life I know mercy.
How did I end up here?
I look to you.
© Catherine Burton March 2015

Simon of Cyrene

I am a good Jewish boy with good Jewish boys.
I keep my Lord’s decrees.
I obey my God’s commands.
And my sons are just like me;
We come from Cyrene,
Famous for its fertile soil and its school of philosophy.
Most Cyrenians think they know everything that there is to know.
But they don’t.
They don’t know what it means to fear God;
to follow the Torah, to keep the law.
But I do, I’m a good Jewish boy, and my boys are too.
I obey my God’s commands.

It has been good to come here;
to the country of our forefathers,
to the land we left long ago.
We’ve never been here before, my boys and I,
but this is the place where we belong.
We’re on a pilgrimage.
We’ve come for the Passover.
We’ve come to be a part of the procession.
And we’ve come to get away from the Roman oppression.
But the Roman rule runs far and wide.
We cannot hide.
These bronze brutes with spears and boots are here too.  
They enforce the laws of a mad man
and execute his crazy plans.
Caesar says he’s our lord,
he says he’s our god.
He says we must obey his commands.
But how can I?
There is only one God, and I obey his commands.
I am a good Jewish boy with good Jewish boys.
That’s why we’re here.
We’re come to worship our God and King, the Lord Almighty.

But today there is another procession
crawling through these crowded streets.
A convoy of men condemned to die.
I’ve heard about these crucifixions before:
The blood, the cross beams, the broken bones.
I don’t want my boys to know.
They are good boys, good Jewish boys.
But before I can usher them away
a Roman soldier taps me on the shoulder.
The flat of his spear fills me with fear.
I must obey his command.
I am just a pilgrim, just a passerby,
forced to carry the cross bar for this criminal.
And he’s a Jew, just like me,
but he must be guilty of something.
He must be a lawbreaker, unlike me.
The crowd are taunting him, calling him the King.
“King of the Jews!” they accuse.
“The Christ! The King!” they spit and tease.
I am so close I can hear him wheeze.
I see him struggling beside me.
I wonder what crime he has committed.
Up close he looks so innocent,
not the naive kind of innocence,
the blameless kind.
He looks very kind.
His look is very kind.
There is something in those eyes.
Maybe you are a good Jewish boy.
A good Jewish boy obeying your God,
defying the Roman world and dying for it.
Obediently walking the road to your death.
Well, lead the way. I will follow.
© Catherine Burton March 2015