Sunday, March 24, 2013

2013.03.24 Empathy Week

Most Christians call the week we are entering, Holy Week. I call it Empathy week. It’s a week we re-enact the skein of tragically inevitable events in the life of Jesus Christ, events that led him to trial and then to execution on the cross, events human history never forgot and divine grace forgave. 

Christians are not re-enactors, like the groups that re-enact Civil War battles and the like. Our liturgies are not pageantry for its own sake, or to memorialize for history’s sake. Christians, if we allow ourselves to be real, if we dare to feel what Jesus might have felt, ought to be heartbroken.

Do we dare to be empathic with the sorrow, the cruelty, the betrayal, the treasonous politics, and rigged proceedings? It takes courage to feel empathy. Can we put our hearts where our mouths are?  All those bloated hosannas ring hollow without heart-truth.   

I’m reading Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir, My Beloved World.  Her life discoveries are interwoven into her story in a seamless way.  Here is one such insight: “I was fifteen years old when I understood how it is that things break down: people can’t imagine someone else’s point of view.” 

At the time when Sotomayor, was “on trial” herself to prove herself worthy of being a Supreme Court Justice. She said that one of the values she thought important for a good justice to hold was empathy.  Many people jumped all over that word and mocked it as absurd, not part of justice at all in fact.  Do you remember the hullabaloo? 

At the time I thought all the flap had something to do with Sotomayor’s being a Latina and a woman. Probably it did.  However, at a deeper level, the reaction had to do with an incomplete and narrow understanding about what true justice is.  

“I was fifteen years old when I understood how it is that things break down: people can’t imagine someone else’s point of view.”

Without empathy, things (like love, justice, peace, truth, faith) break down. Simply so.
Sonia Sotomayor has served as Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court since 2009.

Jesus Christ, as far as I know, is still feeding hungry souls.