Sharing in Christ's Suffering

Ann Marie Eckert

Crown of Thorns

I was recently watching a video that included images of Jesus from all over the world, chronicling his life. The image that caught my attention was one where two men were using poles to push the crown of thorns into Jesus' head.

O Sacred Head, surrounded
by crown of piercing thorn!
O bleeding Head, so wounded,
reviled and put to scorn!

I have seen the crown of thorns in hundreds of paintings and statues, but there was something about seeing Jesus' head impaled with the thorns that brought home to me the amount of suffering that preceded Jesus' death of the cross.

That image beckoned me to think of others who suffer, just as Bob Hurd's song O Sacred Head does:

My sister rendered voiceless,
demeaned and still in chains,
My brother still exploited,
images of your pain.

All around the world, including in the United States, people are suffering from exploitation. My friend Amy was waiting for a call early this morning to pick up a woman who is a victim of human trafficking. Most likely she has been forced into prostitution to pay off a debt. I just finished a book about an eighteen-year-old woman who escaped female genital mutilation in her home country of Togo, Africa, only to be thrown in prison upon arriving in the United States. She spent 16 months in prison, and it was only by the great determination of advocates and lawyers that she was finally released. If she hadn't been lucky enough to find those fighters of her cause, she would have joined the thousands of others who arrive on our doorstep each year asking for asylum, only to be sent back to their home countries to face mutilation, exploitation, and too often death.

All are aware of the genocide in Darfur, yet no country or the United Nations has intervened to save the people who are suffering and dying there each day. The rape and killing continue, as they have for years. The war in Iraq continues, as does the violence in Israel, most recently spilling into the streets of the Gaza Strip. I was there seven years ago, visiting microfinance projects and an orphanage for disabled children run by Mother Teresa's sisters. I wonder how much suffering those people have endured since then.

Live-giving love, empow'r us
with courage bold and true
to walk the road of justice,
and bear the cross with you.

It is hard to think about all the suffering in the world. I often lack the "courage bold and true" to do what needs to be done — to write letters, give money, attend protests, and so on. I want my prayers alone to be enough, but they are only the beginning of my responsibility.

What is your responsibility? What is mine? I have two friends who have recently made long-term commitments to justice. Mark is digging wells in Africa for the next two months, and Megan will spend a year with Doctors without Borders. For my part, I am committing money each month to the Central Asia Institute to build schools for children in Pakistan and Afghanistan (read the book Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin). It isn't much, but it is a way that I can help those who are suffering, and try to "walk the road of justice."

As you think about how God is calling you to act, remember that our prayers do help. Let us continue to pray for all those who are suffering today. . .

Jesus, our Suffering Servant, hold these people close to you today:

Women who are being raped, abused, and exploited
All those imprisoned unjustly, and all those in prisons
Men and women who are refugees from the lands they love and their livelihoods
Children who are abused, or are hungry, or are without someone to care for them
All people throughout the world who share in your suffering, in your pain.

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