And as I stood there, it was not merely for those who died that I wept. Not merely for the curse of racism and bigotry and violence of which we are still heirs.
I wept as a father. I wept for my daughter. She could be as they-dead for nothing more than the color of her skin. Dead for nothing less than the curse of sin.
I cannot protect her. I cannot say to her that I will keep any evil from her. I am her father, but that I cannot promise.
There, in front of Mother Emmanuel, I thought of Nicodemus and his question to Jesus. Perhaps I, too, have misread Jesus’ response.
Why yes, Nicodemus, you must enter again into your mother’s womb. You were thinking only physically, but we think only spiritually. Jesus is no so divided.
You were stillborn. The son of the bride of God, yet not alive. You did, indeed, as I have so often been exhorted to see the passage, need to pass again spiritually, to be reborn.
But Jesus is not so divided. His bride was not merely spiritual. His bride was and is living. Living members.
Nicodemus, you had to enter again into the womb of your mother. You had to pass again from death to life, from stillbirth to true birth. You had to pass through the water of baptism.
You had to be reborn of your true mother, of the true bride, of the true Israel. Of the Church.
That you might have a Father who called you, a Brother who sought and claimed you, a Helper who lives within you. And a Mother who nurtures you.
This alone is my hope for Anna Ruth. I will never be as a father all she needs; Rebecca will never be as a mother all she needs. We are not alone. We two are joined in communion, physical and spiritual reality, with the communion of saints throughout the ages, through patriarchs and prophets, apostles and martyrs, all who have passed from us into His presence, all who live now, all who are to come.
She has a Father, the very Lord Himself.
She has a Mother, the Church.
She has a Brother who dances with her. Who will dance with her though all the rages of man and demons of hell assail.
So Mother Church, I pray she knows always your loving embrace, the embrace of the bride of the bridegroom who will one day come to take her fully as His own.