Monday, April 06, 2009

Lenten Reading: Mark 14: 27-72

Mark 14: 27-72

In his book Silence, the Japanese writer Shusako Endo tells the story of a 17th century Portuguese missionary named Rodrigues, who goes to Japan to save souls. Preparing himself for this mission, he spends a great deal of time contemplating the face of Christ, in which he sees every quality he himself wishes to possess: courage, serenity, wisdom, faith. It is an altogether noble image, only it remains just that for Rodrigues – a silent image that does not offer him guidance or consolation. When he arrives in Japan he is quickly in need of both.

Walking right into a national uprising against Christians, he soon finds himself in prison where his captors order him to renounce his faith. Sustained by the brave faith of Christ, he refuses, hoping to be martyred on the spot. Instead, he is returned to his cell, where he listens for some word from the Lord. All he hears are the cries of his fellow prisoners – and a strange, snuffling sound he assumes is the snoring of the guards.

When he is yanked from his cell again the next morning and refuses once again to renounce his faith, he learns that the strange snuffling sound he heard in the dark is the laboured breathing of Japanese Christians.

They have been crucified upside down, their heads half buried in pits of excrement. They will hang there like that, the guards tell him, until he renounces his faith.

Rodrigues is paralyzed. Shall he betray Christ or the Christians? That is his choice. If he chooses Christ, he leaves his fellow Christians in unimaginable suffering. If he chooses the Christians, he turns his back on Christ and just may lose his soul.

While he agonizes over the decision, the guards bring a metal image of Christ into the room and place it a Rodrigues’ feet. They tell him to trample, to put his foot in the middle of the Christ image and grind it with his toe. Looking down at it, Rodrigues sees that it is already crushed and soiled by the feet of those who have gone before him. It bears no resemblance to the face he has adored all his life, the silent face to whom he has prayed his desperate prayers.

Torn between his loyalty to Christ and his loyalty to those snuffling in the dark, he is hung between the two when he hears the voice of Christ, coming to him from the image at his feet. “Trample! Trample! I more than anyone know the pain at your foot. Trample! It was to be trampled on…that I was born into this world.”

The silence of God is broken. Christ speaks, not from some safe place outside of human suffering, but from the very heart of it. He is the trampled one, soiled and crushed, whose loyalty to us leads him to endure all that we endure – right up to and including the silence of God. (based on Barbara Brown Taylor, When God is Silent)

I think Peter could relate to this story.

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