by Jessica Coblentz
Last Monday, I gathered with a group of authors in Boston to read excerpts from our essay contributions to From the Pews in the Back. The room provided by the church was packed with women and men, young and old, as the five of us, each with her own voice and story, read our words aloud. Kate Heaton was the last to read, and when the room’s gazes turn toward her, she said, “I was going to use my allotted ten minutes to read from my essay like everyone else—but instead I think I will sit here and weep.” Everyone laughed at her quick humor and deadpan delivery. But we also knew there was a very serious honesty underlying her comment. It was horrible and inspiring to hear these women reflect on how Catholicism hurts them, and how it has given them life.
After Kate’s reading, a lengthy audience discussion followed. A number of men and women attested to the long struggle they have endured for gender justice in the church. One continual message echoed throughout the room: You young people are the future of our Church; you must take up this effort from the older generations.
For me, this message made no more profound an impact as when Patty spoke up. If I have a mother in Boston, it is Patty. She is smart, outspoken, and honest. And in the short months I’ve spent in this city, her wisdom has already rescued me from numerous moments of Catholic doubt and despair. “We need you,” she told our young panel, “Because some of us are tired….” If Patty, one of the strongest Catholic women I know, is too tired after years of this work for justice, we must step up. But how will we endure? If Patty is tired, how will we be strong enough?
There will be an end to this struggle. That is the message I garner from this Sunday’s apocalyptic readings. I don’t like the violence and imperial imagery of Scripture’s eschatological texts, but I cling to their promise of God’s profound and undeniable presence among us, and an eventual end to this world’s struggles. And in light of the gender justice issues we wrestled with that night, is it any wonder that our New Testament reading from Hebrews addresses those who have misinterpreted Christ’s priesthood? Perhaps this is the very sort of struggle that will come to an end. Maybe Jesus was talking to me when saying, “Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
These readings give me hope that I can look forward to a day when Patty won’t be tired anymore—when we all won’t be so tired anymore—because there will no longer be a battle to fight. We may not know the day or hour, but I am counting on it.
Jesus, I’m waiting.
Jessica Coblentz is a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School. Follow her writing on the Web at www.jessicacoblentz.com.