Having empathy is a first step in the disciple’s way of generosity. Today’s reading begins, “Be gracious to me . . . for I am in distress, my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.” Here is prayer offered in a time of loss and spoken by one who is exhausted. That description may or may not describe you right now, but continue listening to the psalmist’s prayer. He feels like he has been forgotten and “plotted against.” His sense of dread is all-encompassing, even if his fears and feelings don’t entirely make sense.
Perhaps it seems strange to offer this prayer as your own, although there may be times when it’s exactly what you would pray. Either way, I invite you to imagine it as someone’s prayer today. Here is a key understanding held by those who advocate for use of the full Psalter, even its difficult parts. Ask yourself, “Who might be praying this prayer today?” Then imagine praying it with them, perhaps with someone mourning the loss of a spouse or child, or with a victim of abuse, or with someone struggling to pay medical bills or to find the next meal.
Invite the Spirit into the process, both to enlighten your imagination and to help you bear difficult things, even your own wordless groans (see Romans 8:26). Here is work the Holy One inspires in us as we prepare for the Holy Week journey, and we are able to do it because Jesus walked the journey before us. With him we can complete this prayer with confidence: “But I trust in you, O LORD. . . . My times are in your hand . . . deliver me.”
Pray with and for those who are weary and grief-stricken.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Psalm 118 is a song of rejoicing, yet it also includes the prophecy that the cornerstone must experience rejection. Isaiah speaks of physical suffering, of being beaten, disgraced, and spat on. We see elements of this in the Gospel reading, where Luke describes the final moments of Jesus’ life. Bloodied and beaten, Jesus hangs on the cross and breathes his last. In Philippians, Paul places this drama within the eternal narrative of God’s redeeming work. Jesus leaves his rightful place and becomes flesh. He experiences pain and suffering, even the most humiliating form of death, crucifixion. Jesus can empathize with our suffering because he has suffered. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. How does the Suffering Servant speak to your life today?
Read Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29. How do you hear differently the familiar verses of this psalm when you read them together?
Read Philippians 2:5-11. Do you find it paradoxical to live as a beloved child of God and as a servant? If so, how do you live in this paradox?
Read Luke 22:14–23:56. How do you experience the extreme emotional highs and lows of Palm Sunday and Holy Week, even knowing how it will all turn out?
Respond by posting a prayer.
Whitney Simpson offers a wide-open doorway into embodied practice and awakens us to the long-held wisdom of our tradition that our bodies are sacred places where God meets us and dwells. Fully Human, Fully Divine is a true Christmas gift!”
Click here to learn more about our newest Advent book and eCourse.