Saturday, June 1, 2013

Blessed Visitation: Moses Returns

Many of you may recall the story of Moses that I posted HEREon this blog. That evening did much to transform me, and it has bothered me to no end that I had not seen Moses again since that night. I have wondered about him, and worried that the whole experience might have turned him away from ever coming on the St. John's property again. If it had, I would not have blamed him. But it made me very sad.

So, imagine my great joy and delight when I processed in at noon day to serve as the Eucharistic Minister, turned around and saw Moses sitting in the back of the chapel. He smiled and waved, and I nodded at him in recognition. The difficulties of being in an "official" role at the service is that you have to maintain decorum... even when your inner impulses are saying, "HEY!!! How's it going, man?!"

The timing of his return could not have been better. For Moses to make his reappearance on the feast day of the Blessed Visitation was too perfect. The Church was celebrating that moment when Mary, pregnant with Jesus, visits her older cousin, Elizabeth, who is also pregnant with John the Baptist. In the account in Luke's gospel passage, Elizabeth warmly greets her cousin:

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy.

I thought, "I have no child in me, but my heart has leapt for joy, too, because one who I thought was lost has returned!" This feast day, a moment to celebrate all the underdogs and misfits and easily ignored and marginalized people, brought back Moses for a noon day service. At the passing of the peace, the two of us made a purposeful bee-line for each other. We greeted each other, and he leaned into me.

"I want to thank you for what you did for me that night."

"You're welcome. I'm so glad to see you, Moses."

Strangely, I wanted to thank him for what that experience with the cop outside the church had done for me. It really took me well out of my comfort zone and pushed me passed the fear of going up against an authority figure like the security officer to do what I believed was the good and right and joyful thing to do: namely, stop an unnecessary arrest and trip to the Leon County jail. I could have just gone on my way and stayed out of the situation. That was an option. But deep within me, having sat for an hour in meditative prayer, and gazing upon that window of Mary with its darkened features, I was unable to turn away from such an injustice. The words of the Magnificat seemed appropriate:

And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God mySaviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.

Some who have heard the story immediately want to blame the cop for his behavior and see him as a thug with a badge out to mess with a black man. But I spent time with that officer after Moses was released and allowed to return to the chapel. I let him tell his side of the story, the pressure that was on him in his role to keep people safe. And he is also a black man, and even tried to assure Moses that race had nothing to do with the complaints that he'd been hearing about "that man" in the chapel who was making some people feel unsafe. What we all didn't realize in that moment standing out on the street corner was that the concept of "safe" really is in the eye of the beholder. Removing Moses in handcuffs didn't make anyone safer; instead it stirred the Spirit within me to leave behind what I would have called "safety" to stand up for the weak. And I vouched for Moses, assuring the officer that he really was OK and to just let him pray however he was going to pray. I gave my name to the cop. If anything backfired, it would be on my head.

As he left the chapel, Moses asked me what is my full name.

"Susan Gage."

He repeated it, and we said our good-byes.

I hope he comes back.

1 comment:

Phoebe McFarlin said...

Do you know Moses' last name?