When I first got my hands on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I read the entire thing in 10 hours. I was too eager to get to the ending to truly enjoy the book. It took a second reading for me to truly read it. Even now when I reread it, I’m tempted to glaze over some passages to get to the parts I want. And that’s how I treated Holy Week. I already knew the ending, so I wanted to skip ahead to that part. The fact that I was joining the Church made me just that much more eager to get there as fast as possible. The result is that I didn’t properly appreciate Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
So now that the rush is over, I want to go back and read at a better pace, even if it’s a bit liturgically off.
I want to be able to meditate on the suffering of Christ. But the truth is, I don’t know how to. I don’t know how to relate to suffering. It seems like such a foreign concept. I can know that bad things happen, but knowledge doesn’t make it feel real. I’m in my white, upper middle class bubble, with my stable family who spoils me. The biggest problem I had this week was that I got in a 2:15 section of a class when I really wanted to get in the 9:45 section. As a senior in high school, I would jokingly complain that I couldn’t write a good college admissions essay because I had never overcome anything. Five years later, it’s still true. I have a very, very easy life. And some days I take that for granted, but for the most part, I have learned to be truly grateful for the plethora of blessings I’ve received.
The flip side of that, of course, is that I feel very undeserving. With so much wealth and opportunity, I should be doing more. Since I’m not one of the needy, I should be helping them. I know my charity far under-represents my wealth.
Which goes back to not knowing suffering. It’s difficult to throw myself into a cause without feeling passionate about it, and it’s difficult to feel passionate without having experienced it. It’s hard to fight for workers’ rights when my only knowledge of labor injustice comes from reading The Jungle. It’s hard to know what the needy actually need when I’ve never been hungry, or homeless, or swamped in debts, or abused. I don’t see them in my daily bubble. I just hand over donations of money or clothes or food, which I know helps in some way, but it doesn’t teach me anything about suffering. I feel like to better know Christ, I have to know suffering. It feels like cheating to celebrate the victory of Christ without having suffered with Him.
My only solace is that even if I knew suffering, it wouldn’t equal His. There isn’t the “perfect” status or amount of suffering that makes someone closer to Christ. So, maybe, for me, mediating on the suffering of Christ isn’t as dark and painful as it is for others. Maybe it’s just me looking at Him and acknowledging, “I don’t understand, but thank you.”