Mary Marrocco

Mary Marrocco

Dr. Mary Marrocco is an associate secretary for the Canadian Council of Churches. She is also a teacher, writer and lay pastoral worker. Her column, Questioning Faith, features topics about the teachings of our church, scriptures, the lives and writings of the saints and spiritual writers and theologians. She can be reached at marrocco7@sympatico.ca.

I remember once hearing a speaker marvelling at the “gentleness of God.” My reaction was incredulity. Gentleness? Many in that very room were experiencing great anguish, while around us swirled life’s turbulence and trouble. Of all things one could assert about God, this one seemed the most indefensible. What good could gentleness do, anyway, in a harsh and chaotic world? What is needed is strength and power to assist people whose lives and dilemmas are anything but gentle.

Is love stronger than death? What an arduous, soul-changing task it is to test for ourselves the answer to this question.

Having seen many performances of Shakespeare’s play, I have heard many actors’ interpretations of Hamlet’s response to the seemingly-innocent question: “What do you read, my lord?” With dry irony, or with bitterness, weariness, humour or biting sarcasm, Hamlet replies: “Words, words, words.” Like his author, Hamlet had reason to be fed up with words, and reason to be entranced with them.  So have we all.

It can be difficult, these days, not to become crabby, bitter and divisive. Every day, we receive so much that frightens or angers us, and seems to threaten our very being. 

What makes it so difficult to overcome conflicts? Between a couple or family, groups or nations, often we just can’t sort things out and move on.

During a shared reflection on a scriptural text one evening, a young man asked about joy. Was something wrong with him because he rarely experienced joy? Was he being punished for his mental suffering? What is joy, and do we even have any right to feel it when there is so much suffering?

Sometimes I imagine what it might have been like for people at the foot of the cross as Jesus’ body was taken down, wrapped in linens and spices, and taken away to the tomb.

Bicycles are a popular means of transportation, with a long history — my grandfather’s bicycle, the only vehicle he ever owned, got him to and from work at the Quaker Oats factory 364 days per year.

A woman I knew became Christian as an adult. Unlike some of us lifelong Christians who can be oblivious of the strangeness of our faith, she was appalled by one of the Beatitudes. 

Who could forget the look on Ingrid Bergman’s face, playing Paula in the movie Gaslight, as she apprehends the possibility that she might be slowly going insane?