Jessica’s friendship is one of the gifts online writing communities have brought my way in the past year. She writes so powerfully here about the center song on the album, finding the heart of the crucifixion in the heart of Orlando.
Ah, Holy Jesus
Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee!
‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;
I crucified thee.
By Jessica Mesman Griffith
When I first started writing this reflection on “Ah, Holy Jesus,” I couldn’t get past my offense. I remembered hearing similar words as a child and feeling a sick twist in my stomach—that every time I sin, I drive the nails deeper into Christ’s palms.
How offensive, I thought, how backward, how wrong, to hold a child accountable for suffering 2,000 years past. How offensive to think that we, young and innocent, could have done anything at all to bring about that ancient death. How offensive that any of us living today should bear any guilt at all.
But then, as I walked out of Mass on Sunday, I looked at my phone and saw the news of the mass shooting at the gay club in Orlando.
Ah, holy Jesus, I thought. There is no other prayer for such news.
I couldn’t bear to read the reports yet. Instead I took my kids to the coffee shop and while they drank hot chocolate I sat in silence and thought, “Where is God?”
How many before me have asked this question—even Christ, who cried out in his agony on the cross, thinking himself forsaken? We want a saving God to emerge from the clouds and stop the bullets, remove the noose, put out the fire. We want God to get down from the cross. But God doesn’t save that way. God doesn’t usually rescue, as Ronald Rolheiser wrote. God redeems.
But that doesn’t mean God is absent. God is there on the cross, crying out. God is here, everywhere, with the derided, the rejected, the afflicted, the persecuted, the anguished.
Forgive me my lack of comprehension, Lord.
You didn’t die only once, on a hill in Calvary. You die a thousand deaths a day. You die on the altars of our churches at every Mass. You die in our homes and in our prisons and on our battlefields. You die in our gay clubs.
And we are your killers, and not just in the retroactive sense, or in the poetic, eternal sense in which every Mass and every death returns us to the moments of the death on Calvary. We are doing it now, in our lives, in our time. I look at the crucifix and think, yes, we, humanity, do this to other humans. We did this even when that human was walking mercy and love. Even when that human was our God.
We killed our God. Is there any evil we won’t do?
Ah, holy Jesus.
In the face of death, there is no other prayer.
Jessica Mesman Griffith is a widely published essayist (her articles and essays have also appeared in Elle, Image, America, Christianity Today, Crisis, Notre Dame Magazine, Busted Halo, and Living Faith, among others) and the author, with Amy Andrews, of the memoir Love & Salt: A Spiritual Friendship in Letters, winner of the 2014 Christopher Award for “literature that affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” She is also the author of Grace Filled Days (2016, Loyola Press) and a co-author of Daily Inspiration for Women (2014, Loyola Press). She is co-founder and curator of the blog Sick Pilgrim, a space for fellow travelers, a rest stop for people who have Catholic minds or hearts or aesthetics or attractions and need companions for the journey. Her book with her Sick Pilgrim co-founder, Jonathan Ryan, is forthcoming in 2017.