Central Idea: In the midst of sadness and death, there are individuals who are towers of strength and love.

Remember way back in the middle of March when we thought to ourselves: OK, this will be a couple of weeks, three at the most, we will take a break from life, learn new technologies, we will “flatten the curve,” save the planet, and all go out and have a beer afterwards.

Well…

What I did during my quarantine so far.  By Fr. Kevin Schmittgens

Besides doing some reading, catching up on Netflix documentaries, working on a book that I will probably never publish, keeping up with my workouts, trying to figure out how to livestream our celebrations and, best of all, fine tuning my domestic skills, I decided to do a series of short videos on the Stations of the Cross for our school children.  There were a couple of rules that I tried to adhere to:

1.) They had to be short.  The longest was 3 and a half minutes.  Most of them were around 2.

2.) They had to get to the point. I had to distill the essence of each station to its most basic core. My target audience was ages 4 to 14.

3.) They had to speak to what was going on in our world.  To ignore the current problems and challenges would be hopelessly tone deaf.

4.) They would all have to be different.  Different places.  Different styles.

It was more challenging than I thought.  For instance, how do you distinguish the Jesus falls, one-two-three?  What’s the difference between Simon of Cyrene and Veronica? And what about that awkward meeting with the women of Jerusalem?  What’s up with that?

We are working all of these together in one presentation.  I will let you decide how successful I was.

What shocked me was how difficult the last few stations were. They should have been slam dunks, they should have been the cake walks, but they were surprisingly tough.  How do you explain to kids about Jesus being stripped of his clothes? Being nailed to a cross is an extremely violent and disturbing image.

Then I got to number 13: Jesus being taken down from the Cross. What was that all about? So, I punted and went with a classic.

Michelangelo’s art is always worthy of reflection and prayer and no single work is better than the Pieta.  In the interest of openness and honesty, none of these insights are original, they all come from Sr. Wendy Beckett, a great art historian who just died in December.

If you look at the Pieta you will notice two things about Mary.  First, she is impossibly young. Figuring Jesus was in his early thirties when he was crucified and that Mary was about fourteen when she gave birth, the youngest Mary could be would be 44 or 45.  Michelangelo’s Mary  looks way younger.  He contended that since she was pure, she retained her youthful look. I will give him a pass on that.

The second thing is more amazing, Mary is enormous.  When you can google the Pieta from St. Peter’s (he sculpted two) and give it a good look.  Jesus is about 6 foot tall.  If Mary would to stand up, she would TOWER over him.  This massive Mary turns our understanding of sexual stereotypes on their head. She is the essence of strength and stability. She effortless holds Jesus on her lap. She is not straining at all  Her shoulders are relaxed. Her face solid, strong and steady.

The deceased Jesus on the other hand, is fluid. Sr. Wendy suggest he is like a river of grace flowing down from the mountain which is his mother.  She also suggests that Mary, the grieving mother and Jesus, her deceased son, are united, are one in this work.

Here is what I see from my quarantine this Good Friday: The Pieta is being sculpted again, in every place where the scourge of this virus has wreaked its havoc. And like Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the women and men who are on the front lines are larger than life.  They have courageously battled this pandemic, even to the point of putting themselves at risk.  Do you realize that 100 doctors in Italy have died from this plague?

The health care professionals, doctors, nurses, staff. Truck drivers, grocery store workers, the people who have worked curbside to feed us – shout out to all restaurants in Webster! And the people who have to deal with grieving families in a time when they simply cannot share that grief.  Look around, Holy Redeemer Parish, at a safe distance of course and see the mountain people who, like Mary, are holding Christ, who are holding our society, together.

One of the things that I hope you never forget from this Holy Week, one of the many lessons of the pandemic, is that like Jesus and Mary, we are one, we are all in this amazing mess together.  And if we hope to one day rise from this, we will have to rely on one another and come together as one.  There will come a time for partisanship and decision… in the fall.  Right now, in this turbulent and troubling spring, we would do well to operate under the principle that we are one huge family.  And just like every family needs each member to do their part, we too must do ours, so that we can get through this Lentiest of Lents, this most heartbreaking of Good Fridays so that we can rise again.

And I know will sound a little strange coming from the pulpit, but, after this is all over, I still want to go out – NOT STAY HOME – and have that beer.

Just ask Fr. Kevin

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Read more homily reflections from Fr. Kevin (Click here to view the archive)

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