We hold on, we hold on tighter
August Wilson’s play, Fences, captured a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award, while the movie version also earned four Oscar nominations. It’s the story of a resentful sanitation worker who never made it to baseball’s major leagues, and his wounded family. At one painful moment, Rose, our protagonist’s wife, now aware of her husband’s infidelity, speaks her truth:
“I been standing with you! I been right here with you, Troy. I got a life, too. I gave eighteen years of my life to stand in the same spot with you. Don’t you think I ever wanted other things? Don’t you think I had dreams and hopes? What about my life? What about me? Don’t you think it ever crossed my mind to want to know other men? That I wanted to lay up somewhere and forget about my responsibilities? That I wanted someone to make me laugh so I could feel good? You not the only one who’s got wants and needs. But I held on to you, Troy. I took all my feelings, my wants and needs, my dreams…and I buried them inside you. I planted a seed and watched and prayed over it. I planted myself inside you and waited to bloom. And it didn’t take me not eighteen years to find out the soil was hard and rocky and it wasn’t never gonna bloom. But I held on to you. I held you tighter. You was my husband. I owed you everything I had. Every part of me I could find to give you. And upstairs in that room…with the darkness falling in on me…I gave everything I had to try and erase the doubt that you wasn’t the finest man in the world. And wherever you was going…I wanted to be there with you. Cause you was my husband. Cause that’s the only way I was gonna survive as your wife. You always talking about what you give…and what you don’t have to give. But you take too. You take…and you don’t even know nobody’s giving!”
In a parallel way, Jesus seems so very discouraged in today’s Gospel, as Mark’s narrative offers one of the more haunting questions of Our Lord:
“O faithless generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you? Bring him to me.”
Last week, you may recall, Mark offered another of Jesus’ statements of frustration when he told the crowds:
“Why does this generation seek a sign?
Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
What seems to upset Jesus more than anything is when the crowds expect religion to be a quick fix. Perhaps that is why the Pharisees always seem to be at odds with Jesus; they want black and white answers, immediate gratification, spontaneous solutions. They also want a punitive God. And Jesus proclaims a God slow to anger, rich in compassion.
Our first reading provides a form of spiritual direction when we feel overwhelmed with sadness, or darkness and discouragement today:
The sand of the seashore, the drops of rain,
the days of eternity: who can number these?
Heaven’s height, earth’s breadth,
the depths of the abyss: who can explore these?
And like Rose, we hold on, we hold on tighter.
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.