“Nurturing” Sieger Koeder
Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’
One question never to be asked lightly is “why don’t you have children?”. Five words that make everything awkward. There are intrusive variations: “didn’t you want children?”; high pressure versions: “when are you going to get round to having children?”; the one that leads to an employment tribunal: “won’t you be taking time off soon to start a family?”
Preparing to die, and inflicted with his own pain, Jesus walks into these emotionally stirring waters. Did a woman in the crowd feel the sting of her childlessness as she heard Jesus praise the barren? Did another feel her breasts weep milky tears and remember a child who had died before being weaned? Did others, like some in the painting clasp a distressed toddler closer, hoping the little one would not understand these harsh words.
We read the words as an empathetic warning: mothers, prepare your hearts for they will be broken. Because we trust Jesus, we make them into a lamentation for a city crushed under the heel of an Empire. On other lips this would sound like a curse. “Better never to have children then to watch them suffer and die. You’ll see”.
Asked about the climate crisis, the young politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said: “there’s a scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult. And it [leads] young people to have a legitimate question: Is it okay to still have children?”
Little ones born now, and those yet to come, are most vulnerable to climate catastrophe – least able to seek safety, at risk from outbreaks of disease, easily exploited by cynical people looking to profit from disaster. Think, then, of children and those yet to be born as we face our current challenge. Will we be moved to despair or to act with hope?
like you may I look with compassion at those around me,
feel empathy to the deepest of my belly,
and act sacrificially for all those made in your image already,
and the generations yet to come.