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Have you ever wanted to scream?

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I doubt there are a few of us who can honestly say never. Sometimes it is because we are under so much pressure in our personal life. Other times pain erupts from a disease or physical injury. Other pain eats away at our sense of security and self-esteem. Of course, living in a time of pandemic and political turmoil complicates all the above.

“The Scream”

A recent article in The Conversation points out why a well-known work of art, “The Scream”, has gone viral again.

Few works of art are as iconic as The Scream, by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863–1944). The combination of an open mouth, eyes wide open and two hands raised to cheeks has become a near-universal signifier of shock and existential fear, helped along by 1990s movie franchises such as Scream and Home Alone. Not to mention the scream emoji.

In these “coronatimes,” The Scream has taken on new significance, summoned once again to represent our anxieties of illness and death, of economic recession and of societal collapse.

While the full story of its emergence into popular culture remains to be told, key early moments are probably a Time magazine cover from 1961 with the banner “Guilt & Anxiety,” and a 1973 book by Reinhold Heller about Munch’s iconic painting.

In recent years, The Scream has been used to raise awareness of climate change, to critique and protest Brexit as well as the presidency of Donald Trump in the United States.

Anxiety about nuclear proliferation also speaks through The Scream

The “Cry of the Poor”

Thinking as a Vincentian, I quickly connected the image of the scream with the phrase we use so often… “the cries of the poor.” The perspective of “The Scream” amplifies and makes real the cries of the poor.

I have never known real poverty. I have never suffered from being trapped in a system that is so deeply entrenched that I can not see a path out. (I may be trapped in an invisible system I benefit from.)

I can only imagine the pain that is trapped inside a mother or a father who can not feed, clothe, or shelter the child that is the fruit of their love for one another.

I can only imagine what the unconscious daily micro-aggressions of well-meaning people do to someone’s sense of worth as a person.

With the nudging of Pope Francis I am becoming aware of what I had not been aware of before… the cry of the earth.

Who can save?

As a Catholic Christian I am becoming aware how powerful a statement St. Paul made when he wrote to the Romans…

We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies

It is important to recognize the importance and power of the scream. But it is more important to go beyond the scream.

There is another iconic image I need to contemplate. The Cross!

The cross has transformed the scream. But I need to spend more time at the foot of the cross to understand this redemption… and my role in bringing about God’s Kingdom.

My role is the foolishness of laying down one’s life on the cross and washing one another’s feet of one another that will bring to fruition another cry…  the great Alleluia!

Come Lord Jesus!

Help me hear the screams of my sisters and brothers who are poor.

Help me take up the cross of washing the feet of my brothers and sisters.

Click below for an audio version of the Vincentian Mindwalk

The Scream
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