"After Jesus died what happened next?" is a favorite question for me to ask. The inevitable answer, "He rose." Resurrection did happen but not right away. First He was buried. He spent three days in the tomb. It was only after those three days in the tomb that He was resurrected. How many sermons ever mention those three days and how this reality is experienced in our lives again and again? "Tomb time" that time we have to exist through as we journey through those early days of grieving a loss a death. Death and loss comes to us in so many different ways. There is the loss of a loved, beloved one. There is the tragic loss of a child. There is the loss of a relationship, a spouse, a friend, a job. There is the loss of a home, a community of faith, a place of worship. There is the loss of friends, teammates, classmates, the list is endless. Of course I cannot leave out beloved pets. Years ago I read that in America we do not take enough time to grieve a loss. We want to move on and not choose to face the pain to our detriment. We are too glib with easy answers like "she/he had a long life," "you can have more kids, you are young," "you have your whole life before you," etc. etc. There is no compassion in those words. They are efforts to give an easy fix to what it takes years to travel through. I have read that it takes 3 to 5 years to recover from a death. When Jesus was placed in the tomb His loved ones just sat and watched. They had each other’s presence as support and comfort. That is all we can do in moments we are faced with the challenging task of being a comforting presence. All we can do is hug the person without any words being spoken. You presence is enough. It takes so much to sit and be still, when all you want to do is say something inane, crack a joke, anything to break that uncomfortable powerless feeling of being in the presence of death. One never gets used to it. Each encounter with death is a new experience to be reverenced as sacred time as Kairos time. As far back as the Neanderthals, human beings had a ritual they used to deal with death. That is going back a long, long way to see how death was seen as a necessary part of life and given due respect.
As restless goal orientated human beings we do not readily embrace liminal time or liminal space. We want to know right now what is next. We know what was, now we are ready for what will be. It does not work that way neither in the physical or the spiritual world. When a seed is sewn in the darkness of the earth there is a process of disintegration before new life can burst forth. "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies it remains just a grain of wheat." Now if it dies it produces a rich harvest. We pray in the Preface for funeral masses, "Death is not an end death is a beginning." It is the beginning of something new, and better. If it not better, then death wins and death cannot win. This is not immediately apparent. It takes time for our participation in The Resurrection to be revealed to us and eventually through us always for others. Each one of us has death-tomb-Resurrection-new life experience to share. This is contemporary Resurrection Gospel you have been given to share. In the sharing something mysterious happens. The presence of The Resurrected Christ within you, reaches out to console The Suffering Christ whether lying sitting or standing right there is before you. Each and every encounter with another is the encounter between Christ meeting Christ. Each encounter with The Paschal Mystery adjusts in a very tiny way our spiritual lenses and so refines our ability to see as our Creator intended us to see. The loving compassion gifted to us through the crucible, that is The Paschal Mystery, softens our hearts just a little bit more so we see not as the world sees the poor, the homeless, the alien, the LGBTQ, the prisoner, the addict, the prostitute.
Our lenses are tweaked again as we encounter and embrace the suffering Christ in all of His manifestations. The Suffering Christ comes to meet us under so many disguises we have to be ever vigilant to meet, welcome and greet Him. We must, it is the demand imposed on us by our Baptism that we be a people of hospitality. We are, there is no choice here to show, welcome and express the same hospitality that was modeled for us through Our Lord’s life’s mission and ministry. So then the fruits of The Paschal Mystery are gradually applied to us as a space is readied for them by the emptying out of purgative experiences that life affords us. This season of Lent-Easter-Ascension-Pentecost reveals to us in vivid detail the dynamic action of The Creative Spirit as all things good and bad are brought into a wholeness, yes, a holiness. There are three actions of the Spirit, they are purgation, illumination and union. Lent gives us the tools for purgation. Prayer fasting and works of charity are designed to break us away from our selfishness and self-centeredness. Fasting will forestall slugged-ness and sharpen our ability to see beyond what is seen. Our reflection On the Suffering-death-burial-Resurrection leads to accept the sufferings of all is today’s suffering Christ. Crucified again and again, "in the least of" our sisters and brothers.
These are hard and harsh times, in our country, our church, our world. The Paschal Mystery and the resiliency of nature allows Hope to "spring eternal" from within our depths. It has been placed there as a supernatural gift to strengthen us when we encounter "the cords of death." Each Spring here in Arizona, we await in expectation for the blooming of the wild flowers. No matter how long or how harsh the Winter Season the blooms of Spring are a certainty. That is the hope that is engendered in us through our constant immersion in Easter Mysteries and beyond. Just as we experience Winter and Spring in kronos time, so too there is the guarantee of that same reality in Kairos time. Kairos time, God’s time is perfectly hidden and revealed in kronos time as a consequence all time is one.
This year I have a new greeting. Instead of greeting people with "Happy Easter" I now wish them a" mysterious Easter." Saying to someone have "mysterious Easter" is a way of inviting each one to stop and ask the question, "What does that guy mean, but inviting me to have a mysterious Easter." What is so mysterious about Easter? Hopefully this will lead to a further examination of the Easter events. As they enter the mystery then The Mystery living within is given the opportunity to work the miracle of creative, mercy-full love. My wish for all who read this, is this, May The Risen Christ Who endured the harsh reality of that first Holy Week, reveal His presence to strengthen you as you enter again and again the realities He first endured. May what you suffer, as a result of being a chosen one, not discourage you but convince you more and more, "death is not an end, death is a beginning of a new and better life. A life that will take adjusting to through grace. All the grace you need is already within you.