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“How long to sing this song?”

Following, and being followed by, the cross.

by Unvirtuous Abbey

Gospel Reading: Matthew 16: 21-28

For Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011: Year A – Ordinary 22

 The last time I was “taken aside” was on a trip to Minneapolis, MN. As I stood before the airport scanner, I was told to empty my pockets, take off my shoes, take off my ring and watch, and remove my belt. Being patted down can be a humiliating experience.

But that was the point of being taken aside: being rebuked; to be reprimanded; to be disapproved of.

Shown the Way

This story is a teaching moment. Jesus is showing his disciples what being a disciple means: going to the centre of power, confronting the leaders of the day (and yes, suffering because of it), and then ultimately dying to protect others. “From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples…”

For the rest of his life on earth, Jesus shows them (and us) what is divine in this world: words, healing, stories, transforming, walking, holding, breaking bread, lifting up, and yes, confronting empire.

And he shows them what is human: oppression, mistrust, marginalization, stoning, ethnocentrism, and eventually, ultimately, crucifixion.

What’s scarier is that Jesus reveals that there is a fine line between what is divine and what is human.

Taken Aside

Jesus argues that Peter has quite clearly aligned himself with human things: denial. Peter is afraid of what Jesus is saying, and responds to his fear by saying, “Don’t say that! You can’t die!” Jesus names Peter’s weakness here, and Peter will display denial yet again when his fear confronts him.

Peter’s fear doesn’t allow him to absorb Jesus’ words that he will rise again. And when he does that, he will always be with them, and each of us.

So here’s the thing: would we, who so boldly wear our Christian symbols as jewellery, wear them in a place where followers of Jesus get shot for standing up to empire? How does our faith respond to our fear, or to say it differently, how does our fear limit our faith?

How Long?

This past week, I saw U2 in concert. The highlight of their show was when representatives from Amnesty International surrounded the stage holding globes of light representing people who had been, for all intents and purposes, “taken aside.” At the end of the concert, U2 sang a song they have not performed for a long time called, “40”. For years, the band ended its concerts with that song, with people singing it long after the band had finished. It is based on Psalm 40. “How long?” asks Bono, “To sing this song?”

How long indeed. Protests around the world against government censorship and torture confirm that the song must still be sung. We must still confront fear with faith.

The Way of Powerlessness

One way of living life, says Jesus, is bondage. It is fear, it is power, and it is control. The other way to live life, he states, is just the opposite. It is powerlessness; it is losing control, and in that moment, giving your fear, and therefore your life, to God. He says it like this, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

As Christians, we don’t follow the cross. We follow the teachings of Jesus. And when we follow the teachings of Jesus, sometimes the cross comes our way.

The Hardest Question

When everything seems so wrong, how do you speak up for what is right?

Unvirtuous Abbey appeared on the Twitter scene on August 6th, 2010. They are a slightly sarcastic, yet hopeful, group of monks. They try to elevate the conversation with humorous tweets about the Bible, God, and Jesus. They also pray about geeks, Guns and Roses, and Charlie Sheen. They have been interviewed by The Times -Union, The Practical Catholic and the Virtual Abbey.  They  consider themselves lucky to be among the guest bloggers of “The Hardest Question” and readily trade chores for the chance to write…anonymously, of course.


  1. The Monks` says:

    Actually, it wasn’t the most humiliating moment of life. That’s a slight exaggeration. But at the time, it was less than thrilling. Just to clarify. :-)

  2. Vinaigrette Girl says:

    For rape/attempted rape survivors (91% of us are female; we make up about 17.5% of the female population of the US, acc to a DoJ report in 2000), the taking aside and enhanced patdown is another trigger factor, another retraumatising, and one which doesn’t recast well within a Christian narrative at all. Maybe first-world men, and men in general who don’t face chronic deep poverty, who take their body autonomy for granted, can find this a teaching moment. The rest of us, maybe not so much: it’s too easy a slide into base.

  3. The Monks says:

    I really want to say thank you for posting that Vinaigrette – it’s that kind of comment that really helps propel this discussoin along. The “taken aside” illustration wasn’t meant to be a teaching moment as opposed to a small story that does open the door to a big problem: that people are being “rebuked” all over the world for different reasons. (In fact, we debated on using that illustration because of the “first world problem” nature of it. But the idea lingered about being taken aside. For some, this is political imprisonment, for others it is sexual humiliation. Amnesty International does a good job telling these stories about international facts and while we must never forget how often it happens locally.

    You make an excellent point that rape doesn’t rest well within the Christian narrative at all.

    There are theories on the pregnancy of Mary that if we are to understand that the land of Jesus’ birth was an occupied territory then it is a likely scenario that her pregnancy was the result of rape at the hands of soldiers. Perhaps this is just as legit as a “virgin” birth. Yet, if that were the case and Mary was subjected like many of the women then and now to such a torture (tool of war and otherwise) it seems to speak even more to the story that goodness could come from that unspeakable pain.

    Just some thoughts, and thanks again for posting.

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