What Jesus brought was a message of rupture, of dying to the ways of the world (ways that often seem so natural to us). The message of the kingdom is the message of a community set apart from the world, of an egalitarian collective, doing things differently. The Christian narrative is a radical one, where “the last will be first and the first will be last” (Mat 20:16). To be born again is to see things in a whole new light, to have one’s imagination turned upside down, shaped by a new story— that of God’s kenosis, his emptying of himself, entering this world, standing in solidarity with the poor and oppressed, suffering alongside them.
This is the story not just of Jesus’ life, but of his suffering, of his putting others first (for “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others”, as Mathew writes in chapter 20). It is the story of his death. And indeed, our own baptism into the Church, into the community and way of life that Jesus initiated, is, as Paul said, a type of death, a dying to the world. In order for there to be resurrection, for there to be a new birth, or new creation, first there must be the cross. This radical, new way of life is predicated on our dying to the old.
No longer does the first come first, and no longer does the other come last. No, what Christ initiated was a way of life in which the other comes first, where the face of the suffering stranger makes a demand on us, call us forth to respond, in love, to pray and cry alongside them. For those of us unaffected by misfortune, far away from those who are are, what we need to do is stand in solidarity with the suffering, as God did in Jesus. To do this, we have to join those affected, in prayers and in tears. This is to move beyond our self-concern, to go outside of ourselves, and ask with those affected, “why?” This is to hope with them, to hope against all hopes, for something more, something better. The Christian response is a refusal to admit defeat— to simply name the devil as the one who holds sway over the earth. No, the Christian response is to hope and pray, with a heart that is restless for a brighter tomorrow. Prayer is a sort of hanging on, a hoping against all hope, an utterance of trembling lips, of a body brought to the limit of its capacities.
True prayer doesn’t make us indifferent to the suffering of others, but transports us alongside them, so we may cry with them, and hope with them, for a better tomorrow. Prayer therefore translates into action, into service. For it brings us outside of ourselves, outside of the sphere of our own self-concern. True prayer should make us restless, not complacent.