When I first started reflecting on the theme of “Endure” I was thinking about enduring through a workout or something like that. But last night, I was walking Scout (I know…do I do anything but walk the dog?) and I saw this sculpture outside the Catholic Church down the street from my house. It is a variation on the traditional “Pieta” sculpture by Michelangelo. And there was a connection for me to something that happened yesterday afternoon.
I wandered up to the library at our church and as I went in, I realized that it had been probably six months since I’d been in there and that I’d probably only been in there once or twice since the pandemic began. Prior to the pandemic, I was in there at least weekly as I led a Sunday morning Bible study before worship.
In what has been nearly a year since we met in there, at least three of the participants battled Covid-19 (thankfully all have recovered), one passed away (not from Covid), one has faced severe health issues, and another moved away. There were things that had been set up as a part of our study the last time we met in person and they were still just as they were back in March of last year.
All of this combined to lead me sit down in one of the chairs there and have a gentle cry grieving all that has taken place over the last year. There’s so much that we have had to endure and are still enduring. But as I sat there, I was not grieving as much for myself but all that so many others have had to endure.
- Family members who have faced significant challenges with health and employment this year
- One of Amy and my friends has lost 5 family members to Covid-19
- People in the congregation I serve who have struggled greatly over the last 12 months
- People who could not be with family members and friends as they passed away.
- People whose mental health has been negatively impacted by isolation and quarantine
- The families of Ahmaud Arbery and Trayvon Martin who had the anniversaries of their deaths in the previous days and who continue to long for justice
- People beyond those families who continue to see justice and equality denied to them
- Religious leaders who are tapped out after a year of uncertainty and unexpected challenges
- Two dear friends with whom I served in ministry who recently both lost their positions at the same time
- Another friend battling long-haul symptoms of Covid-19
- Still another friend who emailed me with really sad news this morning
- And the list could go on…
There’s a lot that people are enduring every day. And maybe that’s why I saw something in Mary holding the body of her firstborn son that spoke to me of enduring.
She became a mother likely earlier than she planned and in a way that she could never have planned. She likely faced scorn and ridicule for her pregnancy. She was poor and lived under the oppression of an occupying nation. She was told by the prophet Simeon that even as she held that child, a “sword will pierce her soul too.” She likely lost her husband in the years that followed and became a widow and a single parent. And then she had to face all that took place for her son Jesus all the way up to the point where she held his lifeless body in her arms. There’s a lot there (and even more beyond those things) that she had to endure.
And yet she did. She stayed at the foot of the cross. She went to the tomb in the days that followed. And then she was one of the first witnesses to the resurrection. But even with that amazing news, she still had to endure so much before and after that point.
Maybe that’s why she is revered so much. Because she had to endure so much just as so many have to endure so much. So, today, I am grateful for the example of Mary and what her life speaks of how to endure.