Tag Archives: Easter

God-Easter-hope

From death to life

Holy Week and the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday) have long been my favorite time of the liturgical year.God-Easter-hopeI love hearing the Passion twice in one week and watching the pageantry of Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday. The rich symbolism of the Easter Vigil touches my heart and invites me to renewal in a unique way. The baptisms and confirmations of people choosing my faith as their own always strengthens my faith and makes me more hopeful.

Since 2002, Holy Week has the added significance of being the week my dad died. It was Monday of Holy Week (March 25 that year), and every Holy Week Monday is now a memorial day for me.

On the Saturday before Palm Sunday in 2002, the hospice nurse called and said, “Your dad is ready to die, but your mother won’t let go. You have to come home.”  I explained that I was coming home for Easter and already had my ticket for Thursday. “No, you have to come now,” she insisted. So I changed my ticket and came home the next day, Palm Sunday.

Contemplating Jesus’ Passion and death that year, while my dad was also dying, brought new, deeper meaning to the mystery of death and resurrection.

Once my mother let go of my dad, once she truly said good-bye to him, he died within an hour. The nurse was right; he was ready.God-Easter-hopeThen five years, ago, my friend Jim died on Tuesday of Holy Week (April 3 that year), adding another memorial to an already meaningful time.

On Palm Sunday 2012, almost nine months after his diagnosis of brain cancer, we knew Jim was close to death. He ate his last meal that Sunday afternoon, spent the next day in bed, and died early Tuesday morning.

Their deaths, occurring during this holiest time of the year, has deepened my understanding of the Paschal mystery—how death is part of life and how new life can come from death.

Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains but a single grain; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. (John 12:24)God-Easter-hopeI ask myself what fruit has been produced by their deaths—and the deaths of others I have loved.

One fruit is my deep awareness of how fortunate I am to have loved and been loved. I know myself as blessed, even in the absence of those I love.

St. John Chrysostom said, “Those whom we love and lose are no longer where they once were. They are now whenever we are.”

It is true that my dad, Jim and all the other people I have lost are no longer present in physical form, but I carry them in my heart, and they are with me in a different way. I think of them often, and their lives and deaths help me to live each day in awareness of the fragility of life and in gratitude for all that is.
God-Easter-hope

 

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Set free

unbind-her

“Unbind Her” by Anna Woofenden, 2014

Anna Woofenden’s picture Unbind Her prompted me to ponder the difference between being bound and unbound. Her depiction of breaking free from the bindings and leaping away conjures up images of being free enough to soar into a new direction.

The idea of breaking free and leaping into some unknown future is appealing. But, breaking free can be difficult—just ask anyone who has walked away from an addiction to alcohol, drugs, unhealthy relationships, food, shopping or anything else that had kept them bound. It can be very challenging to walk away from a life lived in bondage, no matter how unsatisfactory or even painful that life might have been.

It is not always easy to walk away from people, situations or self-images that bind us. The old way is familiar, and finding a new way can present lots of challenges. Change often calls for a great deal of determination, discipline and perseverance; it involves saying “no” to what was previously a “yes.”

This Lent, I have been reflecting on times in my life when I turned away from relationships, jobs and behaviors that were holding me back. Sometimes my turning away was short-lived and I quickly returned to that which held me bound—old habits die hard. Other times, though, I have been able to stay strong in my resolve. Mostly, though, I feel I have been slowly chipping away at behaviors and beliefs that needed to be changed, those things that bound me.

Incremental changes over the years have added up and I can see that I am a much different person today than I was forty years ago. The invitation of Woofenden’s picture, though, is to ask if I am free enough to leap.

At the Easter Vigil last night, the priest talked about the leap of faith required of the apostles to believe the reports of Jesus’ resurrection and how we need to make that same leap to be followers of Jesus.

As he spoke, I imagined the scene at the tomb when Mary Magdalene and the other women had gone to tend to Jesus’ body and found that Jesus was gone. I could see them telling the apostles, and the apostles disbelieving them. I imagined Peter running to see for himself. Their emotions must have been all over the place—sadness at Jesus’ death, confusion that his body was gone and hope that something fantastic was happening.

Even imagining this emotional firestorm gave me pause. Am I free enough to feel strong emotions? Or do I keep my emotions in check? How would it feel, I wondered, if I let myself experience the range of emotions Mary and the others felt that first Easter?

I fear I have been afraid to feel.

My Easter prayer is to be set free so that I may experience deep joy, be open to possibilities, and be courageous enough to respond to God’s invitation to live fully. I want to leap into the future and trust that the best is yet to come.

 

Good grief

My mail piles up, unopened. Appointments are missed. I don’t cook, knit, exercise or practice Polish. Frequent naps are the order of the day. The television drones on as background noise.

I am grieving.

If someone had asked me five years ago, “How do you grieve?” I would not have known the answer. Now, unfortunately, I do. I recognize the signs—the unopened mail, disruptions to my routines, the lethargy. “You forget to eat when you grieve,” a friend said the other day. She is right. Food has little appeal.

My memories sustain me these days and I can spend hours lost in the past, reliving the joyful moments of a friendship that helped shape my life.

I let my tears flow, even if at inopportune times. I don’t want to stifle my grief, because I know what happens if I deny expression to this sadness—it will not be stopped but will manifest itself in other ways, upset stomach, anxiety, restless nights. No, I have learned that it is far better to let my emotions have their way, certain that they will not overwhelm me completely, that I will survive this ache, this loss.

I am blessed, really, to have loved so deeply that I hurt so deeply.

That is what I remind myself when I show up for a meeting on the wrong day or find that hours have passed and I have accomplished nothing. “Be gentle with yourself,” friends advise. That is probably one of the greatest gifts grief has given me—the capacity to be gentle with myself, to accept myself in the vulnerable state. I cut myself slack and explain my loss when I miss a deadline or am at the wrong place at the wrong time. People are kind and compassionate; they honor my pain.

We begin Lent next week, walking with Jesus to his death, and I think I will be in a good place for Lent this year, this latest loss so recent. Mary Magdalene will be my companion, and the words of scripture my consolation. “She did what she could,” Jesus says (Mark 14:8) as much about Mary as about me. I did what I could to be a good friend and loving companion.

And then at Easter, I hope to rejoice as Mary Magdalene rejoiced, to be ready for a new life with a deeper appreciation for what has been and a greater hope for what will be.

 

 

Living Easter Joy

Sometimes I am in sync with the liturgical seasons; for example, this past Lent. Part of my plan for Lent was to identify and face my fears, and I spent time pondering what keeps me unfree and praying for the grace to let go of fear and grow in trust. It was a good Lenten practice.

But now that we are in the Easter season, I am feeling a bit disconnected.

Our daily readings from the Acts of the Apostles provide the backdrop for this season, capturing the reactions of the early church to the resurrection —stories of jubilation and passion for spreading the Good News. As I read these passages, the joy and passion grab my attention and offer me a standard against which to measure myself. Am I that joyful about the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection? Am I that passionate about spreading the word?

I am not feeling it. Perhaps I have not moved beyond the fears I recently identified. I think I needed an extension on Lent, a few more weeks to come to a deeper resolution.

One way I know that I am living in fear is how I relate to money—or the lack thereof. I don’t usually worry about money or even give it much thought at all. I grew up without money and have never earned a very high salary. I live fairly simply and within my means.

In one job, my board president called me “lilies of the field” because I trusted so completely that there would be enough money to do the work we were doing. At one point during a government budget standoff that upheld contracts, other programs like ours were laying off staff and cutting programs, but we continued on as if we had no money worries. I trusted, and God provided. It is really that simple for me. I have that much trust.

So when I find myself concerned that there might not be enough money, when I start to check my bank account daily or even worse, start thinking about a second job, I know something is off.

When fear infects my life, I know I have moved away from living in gratitude, away from awareness of God’s abundance. Fear is the antithesis of trust, joy and freedom.

Prayer is the antidote to fear. Spending time in prayer is what I need right now. Placing myself in God’s presence and allowing myself to know God’s love for me moves me back to living in gratitude, to remembering God’s abundance. In prayer, I hear God called me His beloved and remind me that I am more important to God than the lilies of the field. God provides.

In this Easter season when we celebrate new life through Jesus’ resurrection, I need to remind myself to stay focused on all the good in my life and to be grateful.