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This morning as I read the psalm of the day (69) on the USCCB website I was reminded of the prayer service that we prepared in December for the feast of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, a prayer of lamentation for the caravan of migrants streaming toward the southern border of the United States. Bereft and sorrowful because of great loss, God’s people are searching for comfort and consolation in the present in the same manner as has been true throughout the ages. This seeking, I realize, can be an inner or outer experience – or both – and I find it again appropriately expressed in the paragraph below that was an introductory reflection for our prayer service in December.

Lament is a tool that God’s people use to navigate pain and suffering. Lament is a vital prayer for the people of God because it enables them to petition for God to help deliver them from distress, suffering and pain. Lament prayer is designed to persuade God to act on the sufferer’s behalf. Lament is often most effective as a communal activity. Reading and reflection are intended to express empathy for people suffering as a result of great loss.

Today the flames that devastated the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris have died out but the reality of the loss as seen in the photos rends our hearts. As was true at our prayer service, I believe that the spontaneous gathering of thousands in the Paris streets – inhabitants and visitors alike – who stood and wept, prayed and sang as the cathedral burned must have felt the power of community in that excruciatingly helpless moment.

On this middle day of Holy Week, I wonder if Jesus felt the lament of the few faithful ones who remained with him at the cross. Can we feel the reality of his suffering as present in the world today and enter in a true and visceral way to stand with those who deserve our presence and courage?