Monday, February 24, 2020

Stay Woke: How Jesus and Ignatius Inspired My Lenten Ink

When studying the Scriptures, it is not only important to read the stories, but also to allow them to read you. St. Ignatius even used to teach his retreat participants to enter into the narratives’ sights, sounds, and smells. This imaginative exercise was to frame one’s prayer life and inspired movement in the present world. This practice is most meaningful for me during Lent. In Jesus’ engagement with the disciples at both the Mount of Olives (Mark 13:32-37) and the Garden of Gethsemene (14:32-42), where I pilgrimaged last May, a Greek variant of my name is literally thrice spoken by Jesus in each of the two parallel stories: γρηγορεῖτε (gregorēite). I will never forget reading it in proximity to the sacred space where it was spoken (likely in Aramaic). 

Keep awake.
Remain vigilant.
Stay woke. 

γρηγορεῖτε is an active call in the plural- a communal charge not to fall asleep to the patterns and oppressive power structures of this world. It is Jesus’ hope to carry the liberation story forward beyond his arrest in the garden and looming trauma at the cross. Yet these disciples, much like me every time I watch a movie after 9:30 p.m., fall asleep. And Jesus is peeved.

I cannot imagine these stories apart from their call to me (and all of us). My name is literally in it. And now, thanks to @tommygtattoos at Saints and Sinners in Fells Point, 36 years from when I was born in a hospital just over the Patapsco River in Baltimore, this personal and communal call is on my arm, too. γρηγορεῖτε is permanently inked as reminder to be vigilant, awake, and woke to hope in the midst of even the sleepiest of despair. 

But γρηγορεῖτε is not about the individual alone; γρηγορεῖτε is an invitation to all of us saints and sinners to stay alert when the systems of the day aim to lure us to sleep, “And what I say to you, I say to all: Keep awake” (Mark 13:37). 
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