I Think I’ll Stay
By: Andrea Beyke
Yesterday, many Christian Churches celebrated Palm (or Passion) Sunday. I attended mass at St. Mary’s Village with my friend Kelly and one of our RCIA candidates. Many other SMWC students were also in attendance. Every year, I both dread and look forward to this day. It seems very shallow of me, even more so now that I’m actually writing it for others to read, but I recall that in the Catholic Church, the Gospel reading on Palm Sunday is crazy long. And it’s a depressing story, really. This Messiah that was supposed to liberate the People of God from the government and from sin is killed…at the hands of the government. It seems they’ve won. And sin prevailed.
With these negative thoughts in the back of my head, Sister Joan asked us to be seated for the Gospel (since it was crazy long). So it began.
Wait, WHAT?! We’re reading the EXPANDED version! This means we began reading from the Gospel of Mark at the plot to kill Jesus and the anointing at Bethany (Mark 14:1-9). I typically don’t hear this part because so many churches choose to read only the shortened version…probably because of cranky parishioners like me. But, I settled in, willing myself to have patience. Here’s where my attitude changed.
An unnamed woman anointed Jesus’ feet with a very costly ointment of nard. The insightful woman seemed to understand Jesus' imminent passion the best. While her brothers accused her of wasting expensive ointment, she evoked Samuel's prophetic anointing of David as king in Israel. Her symbolic ritual must have been very reassuring to Jesus, who was facing a horrific death before entering his own kingdom. She was intelligent. She was compassionate. And Jesus recognized that. He said, “Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” (Mark 14:9)
In remembrance of HER. Do we remember her? This woman whom we cannot even name? Come to think of it, do we remember any of the women from the Passion? As the Gospel continued, I paid special attention to the women in the Story.
There was a servant-girl who questioned Peter about his connection with Jesus – leading to Peter’s second denial. (Mark 14:68) A small part, but pivotal to the telling of this story. She reminded us of our human dimension. We all have the tendency to protect ourselves.
Then, finally, after Jesus breathed his last, Mark’s Gospel reads, “There were women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.” (Mark 15:40-41) After the body was buried, “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.” (Mark 15:47)
The women stayed. Often during Holy Week, we hear it preached, “Jesus was abandoned by everyone.” Everyone? Everyone, that is, but the women, whose presence must have meant so much Jesus, if to no one else. The women stayed.
Some say that the men could have been arrested and prosecuted for staying, so they left to protect themselves. But, wouldn’t that same law also apply to women?
Sister Christine Schenk, CSJ writes about this, “I used to think the women stayed because it was less politically risky for them compared to their brothers who fled to Galilee. Not so. Turns out that the Romans had no compunction about crucifying women and even children to terrorize subjugated people.”
The courage! The love! The compassion! When I bear in mind these women, I can’t believe that I’d never considered the Story from their point of view before. They risked their lives to be there for someone they’d come to love. They cared for the body of their teacher and friend when very few others would. They showed the world that their presence was sacred.
Let us remember these women. Actually, let us do more than remember these women. Let us emulate them. How can I stay with the afflicted? How can I soothe the troubled? How can I walk with Jesus? How can I experience Holy Week through the eyes of these women?
Here’s how: like the women on Calvary, I’ll stay. I’ll stay and stand for what I believe...even if everyone else leaves. I’ll wait it through until the end…even when the situation gets uncomfortable. I’ll experience the pain and the grief…even when others take the easy way out. And, I will continue to hope. I will have hope always, because I know how the Story ends. I know what we celebrate next Sunday. So, in a very different way, I looked forward to Palm Sunday because I know that the Gospel doesn’t end with Jesus’ death.
I think I’ll stay and wait with my sisters for the glorious ending. I think I’ll stay.