I was carrying so much anger about ignorant, un-Christian "Christians" and the damage they do that I went to 5:00 Mass. Thought I'd ask the priest afterwards how he dealt with fanatics. Killing kind of rage, the kind that hurts you more than it hurts them and can slide so easily into despair.
First one there. Others drifted in, idle chat about their day as we waited to begin. One of the worshipers was tired, having spent the day working in pediatric intensive care. Another was asked about their latest CAT scan and their own recovery. A toddler, there with mother, father, and baby brother, visited us all in turns, then sat quietly reading something called "My Quiet Book", with all its pages made of cloth. Ken stuck his head in the door and asked us to remember in prayers a parishioner whose son was getting married in two weeks but the future mother-in-law was just killed in a car accident and a four year old with stage four cancer, both parents doctors, which meant they already knew more than was good for them as they worried...
Kind of puts you in perspective, doesn't it, punk?
We were supposed to thank God for something he'd given us. Yeah. right. Thank you for all the anger. Some inherited, a lot more of it earned, and some of it, quoting myself now, a chip put on my shoulder by Spartacus and knocked off by Wat Tyler. I've even been angry with God this year (God can take it; God knows they can dish it out). What am I, a fricking samurai-- the man with nothing to lose can accomplish great things?
The homily was about Mary. Whether you believe or not, metaphor or objective reality, Mary's probably the best of us. A human girl-- no super powers, remember-- given something she never asked to carry. Then a woman who loses a child, the worst thing imaginable, and in a particularly horrible way, yeah she can carry that too.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world. Have mercy on us. I tend to imagine a literal lamb, lost animals safe from hurt. My little furry angels. The murdered lamb, as blameless as Mary.
My anger went away, or at least settled down to an acceptable simmer. God wasn't there for the self-righteous winners, wasn't a prosecutor like Dobson and Falwell and Robertson and our local mean-spirited pipsqueaks. They were too busy hating with a sanctimonious grin on their face, and driving nice cars. God was down here with the broken ones, getting the shit kicked out of her/him like the rest of us. It's the daily crucifixion. Even if we're lucky enough to avoid the harshness of society-- born in East Grand Rapids, say, instead of the 9th Ward of New Orleans-- we're still crucified by time, wearing us down, breaking and burning us.
Sooner or later, of course, reality, life will find a way to snap your self-perceptions like a twig. An old hippie in Stephen King's "Firestarter" says "life is short, pain's long, and we're here to help each other through". Some of us know that by instinct, and it makes us kinder to others, more tolerant not less, and some haven't learned it yet.