On Holy Thursday as Jesus gathered His Apostles, washed their feet, and gave us the Eucharist, we saw Him drawing us closer than we could ever imagine: calling us into a relationship that is so close that His very life is shared with us. He was called at His birth Emmanuel, ‘God with us,’ and in the Last Supper we see just how closely with us He wants to be.
On Good Friday we saw Him refuse to give up on that closeness, refuse to abandon us, even to the point of feeling our abandonment. We saw Him love us and trust the Father enough to accept the Cross, knowing and trusting that the Father would bring good from it. We considered the challenge: what if you really believed that whatever you’re going through — whatever grief, whatever struggle, whatever confusion, whatever regret, whatever is hurting your body or your spirit or your soul — what if you really believed that God can take it to Himself joined to the Cross of Christ, and bring redemption through it?
He can. And if you could see what God can and will do with your share in the Cross, you would hold it so tight and refuse the least lightening. I believe that. Do you? If only we could see that, could understand, but of course we rarely do. The hard parts and the sad parts can seem pointless and empty. The grain of wheat falls to the ground and nothing seems to happen. The blows of the scourging land one after another and who could explain what grace is won with each stripe? We can’t always understand, but we can always trust. We can imitate Christ’s trust in the Father, and we can reciprocate Christ’s refusal to give up on us by refusing to give up on Him.
Easter happens when we do that.
You start to see it everywhere. You get used to it and it changes you. A simple example is close at hand: there were tears in my eyes as I watched Notre Dame burning. The commentators were in tragedy mode, it’s such a loss, such a loss, such a loss. I felt every bit of that but there was something more. Something deeper. I had this thought: I’m excited to see what God will bring from this. God is going to do something great with this. As I scrolled through more media, I found a random twitter video of a small crowd gathered on a Parisian street. The cathedral was some blocks away from them, glowing orange against the Parisian night. They were singing. Sainte Marie, Mère de Dieu, priez pour nous, pauvres pécheurs, maintenant et a l’heure de notre mort. And the faith and hope and love in the Body of Christ gathered spontaneously on that street was so beautiful. And I thought, there’s the start of my answer. I watched more, different channels. Time and again some camera crew would be filming some correspondent on some other street, and behind them would be more people singing the same words. “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” I wonder how many Hail Mary’s were sent up to Heaven Monday night from Paris and around the world.
Like I said, an example close at hand. But let’s be honest, it’s a safe example… because it’s something sad but not too sad, and something it’ll be easy to see grace coming out of. What about sadnesses that hit much harder and cut much deeper? We woke up this morning to news of so many dead Christians in Sri Lanka, so many more added to the number of those killed in hatred of the Faith. All morning I’ve wondered what to say, knowing I couldn’t talk about a burned building while saying nothing about murdered human beings. But nothing can be said, by you or me, and nothing need be said, because today we have God’s own answer as we stand before the empty tomb of Jesus Christ.
We linger at the Cross on Good Friday to stay close to Jesus, and because it’s the greatest possible example. It’s the bottom. God is dead and we have killed Him: that’s the bottom. If God can bring good from that, if that can turn out not only alright but redeeming the world and opening Heaven, then we have a hope big enough to face anything. If Easter gets into our hearts, if it fills us with faith and hope and love, we learn to bring that hope to the crosses that we have to bear. We feel the sadness and grief, we feel all of it. We tremble at the test results. We cry at our friend’s diagnosis. Our hearts break at the graveside. We feel all of it. But we feel something more, and that something is Easter hope.
Think of the hope driving the women on their way to anoint the body of Jesus in the tomb. “Who will roll away the stone?” Big heavy stone. But they made their way to the tomb anyway. They had no plan; there was no plan to be had. It was the simplest love that made them go. Jesus was dead. They loved Him. They wanted to provide for all the caring traditions of burial, to anoint Him as one they loved and mourned. They did what love does with a big heavy rock in the way. Who will roll away the stone for us? Don’t know. Just know we have to try. We have to go as far as we can. Seems like we’ll almost definitely fail. Alright, then let’s go fail. But we’re not giving up.
“Where are you going?”
“To the tomb.”
“Who’s going to roll away the stone?”
“Well you’re not strong enough.”
“But you’re still going.”
“It’s this simple: that’s where Jesus is, that’s where we’re going.”
“This Jesus thing doesn’t seem to be working out.”
“We’re going to Him.”
That right there is how you witness a Resurrection. You have to stick past the point when it makes any sense, past the point when you have a good plan, past the point where your own resources are even close to being adequate to the obstacles you face.