We gathered Monday for our monthly prayer service during which the Chicago Discerning Deacons Circle led us in a “Stations of the Cross from the View of Women Along the Way.”
Their reflections guided us in a prayerful meditation on women’s faithful witness to Christ’s ministry, death and resurrection and invited us to recognize the ways we ourselves accompany Jesus along the road: with the youth who wonder if they are ever really seen, with the immigrant mothers who seek connection as well as housing, with those impacted by serious illness, whose enduring faith reveals Christ’s love and reminds us that we never walk alone.
We are grateful to share the reflection written by Mary Freeman for the 10th Station – Jesus is stripped of his garments. Mary, who coordinates the food pantry at St. Francis Xavier Parish, invites us to reflect on our response when we encounter someone who has been stripped of their human dignity.
We offer our prayers for a grace-filled Holy Week, that we each would be open to the grace that comes by allowing our lives to be shaped by Jesus’ paschal mystery. -Casey & Ellie
The 10th Station of the Cross – Jesus is Stripped of His Garments:
One more indignity…as if Jesus hasn’t suffered enough…now he was being stripped of the clothes on his back. His shame was exposed for all to see and mock. May our actions clothe others in respect and serve as reminders that we are all God’s beloved children.
One day at work, I was summoned to the window because someone was climbing into the St Vincent de Paul boxes in our church parking lot. The three metal boxes, set up for donations of clothing and shoes, are not easy to access. They are deep containers with a small opening to push a bag through, but here was a person reaching in and pulling bags and items out. Stuff was scattered everywhere! People were alarmed and others came to stare out the window. They didn’t know what to do. As soon as I saw the head with short blond hair pull back from the slot, I was heartbroken. I knew exactly who it was.
I went outside, and as she heard my footsteps approaching, she yelled out from the box, “I’m sorry. Please don’t get angry with me.” And then she saw me and relaxed a bit but expressed how embarrassed she was. Sarah is a young, single mother who would do anything for her son. She is bright, hard-working, faith-filled and thankful. It is hard for her to come through our food pantry line and ask for things she needs. She has been stripped of many things – healthy relationships, a safe place to live, essential items like food, clothing, gas, and opportunities for a living wage. We have had many conversations about life and have helped with some of these material items. But in that moment, my heart was filled with compassion for the shame she shared. She explained that she was working as a home healthcare aid but she had an interview for a better job and needed to find some business casual clothes for her interview.
She saw that I had brought out a chair so that it would be easier to access the bags and a cart to sort through stuff. She was excited about one of the bag’s contents, so I helped her go through it. As we did, we talked, hugged and…found a cute outfit! Trying to help someone regain their dignity can take a long time, and often we just have moments to let someone know they are worthy of love and care. My food pantry volunteers, most especially the women, use their gifts of compassion, understanding and knowing how to get things done to connect people to resources that help them feel less ashamed for asking for something. Women take the time to talk to our clients and listen to what they need rather than just filling bags with stuff.
When we encounter someone who has been stripped of their human dignity, how do we respond? Do we add to their suffering by turning away, asking judgmental questions or making snide comments? Or do we answer the call to bear witness to God’s love and mercy?
Holy Week prayer: Jesus, through your suffering, help me to treat people with dignity and give them a sense of belonging to the whole human family.