Jesus. Get off the cross. You’re embarrassing me!
A friend of mine lived in the country. He had kids and they were growing up and one of his daughters got involved in ranching. Raising cattle. She was just getting started in this work and she was put in charge of moving a herd of cattle.
She asked her father to help because he was an experienced rider and he was also a veterinarian. And he was her Dad.
Moving the herd happened in the dark of night, just before dawn. A dozen or so riders had instructions from this young woman and the move began. They walked or trotted their horses by the edge of the herd to keep them together and going at a speed they could control.
My friend’s horse was trotting along fine, then tripped and flung my friend down a slope onto his back. He called out for help and a couple of riders came by. He was trying to tell if he was hurt, and his daughter rode up.
She leaned down from her horse and scolded him in a whisper. “Dad. Get up. You’re embarrassing me!”
I love that story. That girl had so much on her mind and wanted this job to go well so badly that when her father got thrown from his horse she could only think about how it would affect the job.
When St Peter heard Jesus say that He would be killed for what He was doing, Peter said, “No!”. In one way Peter said, “Be quiet, Jesus, You’re embarrassing me.” Peter was saying “I want things to go this way: more success, bigger crowds. Don’t talk of failure.”
What do we do when things go wrong? What do we do when there’s pain? How about when suffering goes from short term to long term? God wants us to deal with suffering. It’s a part of life. When we think we can control our lives, we make sure suffering is not part of it. Suffering makes us look bad. It ruins our image. It feels awful.
What do we do?
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was a psychologist who worked with dying people. She came up with an understanding of how people cope with having an illness that will probably end in death. Death is the biggest way of all that things go wrong. Most of us see it as the worst thing that will happen. The biggest embarrassment.
There are five stages people go through when things go terribly wrong. To keep this short, I will say only the first and the last. The first is denial. “No! This is not happening!” The last one is acceptance. As Jesus put it, “Not My will, Father, but Yours be done.”
Any time things go wrong we can bet our first reaction is “No!”. If we are believers, if we pray, and ask for help, that begins to change. We’ll get to “Your will, not mine be done.”
There’s a reason to accept suffering, any kind. Some day we’ll have to accept death. In the mean time we have to accept things like where we were born, how we were treated as children, what we look like, the traffic is, our jobs, our health, you name it.
What do we see when we look in the mirror? Do we see our failures? Blemishes? The ways we’re not good enough?
What do we feel when we enter a room full of people? Unworthy? That we have to hide who we are or what we did? That our jobs aren’t good enough or our kids aren’t bright enough or our bank accounts aren’t big enough?
If we feel that kind of embarrassment about ourselves, we try to hide. Or we look for something to cover it. Some pleasure. Some fantasy. We drink, we spend, we judge others. Anything to make us feel less embarrassed about who we are.
These things that deny the pain, that distract or cover over our unhappiness actually do work. The world is filled with ways of denying reality. They do take away the pain.
What they don’t do — what they cannot do — is heal us. Denial never heals. Never. It only conceals.
God wants healing for us. Healing comes with acceptance. Healing comes when we accept reality as it is, not as we’d like it to be. As soon as I can accept my life as it is, I find freedom. The things I was afraid of lose power.
We all can spend a lot of time and energy covering up our embarrassment. We hope people will like us, and include us and respect us.
Hasn’t that been what some people in the Church did when the sins of priests were reported? Deny. Hide. Don’t families do the same with the things they don’t want known? Businesses? Yup. Everybody does it.
There’s a saying in Italian: “bella figura”. It means “beautiful face”. When we put the preservation of the beautiful face above the truth, we lie. We deny. “Dad, you’re embarrassing me.”
There was nothing beautiful about Jesus on the cross. Nothing. Horrible to look at. Horrible, but three days later, He rose. He filled the world with glory. It’s the glory that comes from acceptance. From trust and honesty.
When we face reality instead of denying it, we pass through suffering into freedom. At first the truth embarrasses us. Then it sets us free.
Via Fr. Bill Murphy