Dear Michael and Lisa [Spirit Daily],+
In the Heart of Our Blessed Mother,
It’s hard to overstate the crushing trauma and demoralization, the numbing shock, and the paralyzing fear the apostles experienced as they watched the sufferings and death of Jesus unfold before them in a quick succession of sudden and violent events. Once the betrayal was set in motion, their entire understanding and expectations were brutally assaulted and swiftly destroyed in a matter of hours. So overwhelming was the Paschal Mystery for the closest friends of Jesus that they could not stay with Him as He went through it. St. John, the beloved disciple managed, not on his own, but by relying on the only one who had any courage and faith left: Our Blessed Mother, who had also gathered a handful of grieving women around her.
As the events played out, darkness descended and stalked the followers of the Nazarene, now dead and locked inside a dark tomb behind a monstrous, immovable stone with Soldiers assigned to keep it sealed. An eerie stillness, a strange, suffocating breathlessness, unlike anything anyone had ever known, blanketed the whole earth and penetrated their own hearts, so there was no escape from it. Hope and faith beat feebly in the spirits and souls of those, (save one Woman), closest to the horrific Death of the Anointed One, the Messiah who was going to save the Chosen People. The whole world groaned, “Foundations once destroyed, what can the just man do?” Ps11
Jesus’ followers, who had known oppression, persecution, and exile in their history as a people, who had been separated from the temple and the worship of the One True God, were not ready. They were shocked by these events which had been foretold. And they were afraid. Though Jesus had tried to warn and prepare them, they did not understand Him deeply enough to hold onto the center of His entire message. We don’t understand either. We, too, have difficulty holding onto the truth about the Cross in our lives.
Despite this, the Resurrection of Jesus takes place. In the midst of trauma, fear, isolation, grave uncertainty, and a feeling of profound abandonment on the part of the disciples/apostles, Jesus rises. He definitively conquers death and wins for us freedom from sin, and the glory of everlasting life.
This Easter will be like that first Easter in many ways: we will be locked behind our doors, afraid, protecting ourselves, stupefied by what has so suddenly happened, mourning the loss of Our Lord Who has been taken away and sealed in a tomb whose entrance is barred to us.
This year there will be no public witness to the sufferings and death of Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer. Easter will not be communally celebrated with processions of light, incense, resounding notes of alleluia, flowers and bells ringing in the colors of spring and newness of life. Yet, Jesus, Who rose in an instant in the darkness of the night giving way to the dawn, will walk right through the barricades of fear, of unbelief, and unfaithfulness by first walking through our material protections: tombs, doors, and the roads we take away from the “awful” events of our lives.
He will do this for us this year just as He did on the very first Easter. We will not have the joy of physically celebrating together the most beautiful liturgy of the whole year, nor of receiving Jesus sacramentally. But this will not stop Jesus. There will be nothing to disguise or distract us from His presence if we have the hope of Easter in our eyes, and are truly yearning to see Him as the holy women did on Easter morning.
Jesus will spend the next forty days, strengthening us in our faith, just as He did, starting with Mary Magdalene, who didn’t recognize Him because she was not expecting to see Him. Peter, and the rest of the Apostles, assailed by shame and doubt will also need direct evidence before their faith is strengthened. But what joy then engulfs them when their eyes are opened, and they see beyond the limited appearances and understanding of this world.
This crisis can deepen our faith in the same way. Jesus has no barriers and is not held back by anything. He wants fearless warriors who charge right into the face of evil to conquer it in the name of the Risen One Who lives forever, no more to die. This is what the apostles became. This is what we too can become if we trust.
Emily Bronte expresses something of this in her poem: “No Coward Soul Is Mine”
There is no room for death,
Nor atom that his might could render void;
Thou – Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.
Knowing God does not abandon His people ever, in exile, in suffering, in death and dying, we believe Our Risen Lord is always with us and promises us His glory if we persevere. Only one other person has walked through these kinds of times without faltering, and no others have done it without her. We ask Mary to attend us, teach us and keep us safe both in faith and from the invisible enemy looking for entry. We pray this virus die a timely death and forge us into great saints in the meantime in the midst of our hurt, our sorrows, fears and grief.
May we experience this Easter what St. Augustine so beautifully exclaims:
“In my deepest wound I saw your glory and it dazzled me.”