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Will you also leave me? – John 6: 67


It was June 1977, the former concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. Chilly gusts nipped my cheeks, ballooned my coat, and whipped my bell-bottom jeans as we stood in front of the Catholic memorial, Church of the Mortal Agony of Christ; its towering presence evoked even more shudders. Above it, hung a massive crown of thorns glinting in the sunlight. Within the arms of the jagged stone circle sat an oil-press atop a bronze altar. That got my attention.

The enshrinement of the oil-press suggests the depths of the religious imagination of the memorial’s architect: the juxtaposition of the oil-press used to crush olives with Jesus’s enemies raining down intense physical and mental torture. It was to such a grove, Gethsemane, where Jesus sought prayer with his Father that night. It was to such that he said, “Not my will, but yours be done.” Parallels to this anguish are also found in the prophet Isaiah’s four Suffering Servant Songs.

So what does this say about affliction? How make sense of our own tearing, heaving, and crushing? And for what purpose? Even our response to Covid-19?

Some questions are best lived with, rather than responded to.

Yet, the gospels also portray an afflicted Jesus, prostrate on the ground in that olive grove, dialoging with his Father for clarity. “Anything but that …”—my response, as well, when under siege.

Suffering does have its way with us. Always has …



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