A cry from the heart

Today’s first reading is a lament.

We could easily change the words to reflect our recent experiences here in Australia: “If I go into the countryside I see drought, flood & fire, if go into the city I see people in lockdown if I search the web I see division and hatred if I turn on the news I see social disintegration and physical deprivation.”

Old Testament scholar Michael D. Guinan, OFM argues (in a Franciscan Media blog) that Christians have lost the art of lament and it has been to our detriment.

A lament is an unfiltered cry of anguish to God, where we allow ourselves to feel the ‘unacceptable‘ but humanly unavoidable emotions which can assail us from time to time: confusion, discouragement, rejection, fear, isolation, humiliation, anger, despair. We also own our ‘unacceptable‘ thoughts like secretly disliking things about ourselves or wishing ill on someone who has harmed us. 

We allow these unconscious thoughts and feelings to surface and we express them honestly to God, not so that we can wallow in them or act upon them, but so that in owning them and feeling them in God’s presence, we can better process them and ultimately move through them, by the power of the death and resurrection of Christ at work in us.

Fifty of the psalms contain prayers of lament and Jesus himself modelled lament to us: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I have longed to gather you…”, 

“My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”.

A lament is an acknowledgement that we are not ultimately in control of our circumstances and that we need God to be there for us. 

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Scholars note that almost all biblical prayers of lament resolve in an act of trust. Jesus‘ last words in Luke’s Gospel are ‘into your hands I commend my spirit’ and today’s first reading ends with “It is you, Lord, oh our God, who are our hope”.

Lord Jesus, help us not to push away the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that sometimes rise up within us. Teach us how to embrace emotional discomfort as part of the rich experience of being human. Show us how to die and rise with you moment by moment, day by day and give us the joy of your salvation.

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