Wednesday, April 27, 2011

When Resurrection Waits.

I don't quite know how to describe the last few days. Suffice it to say, Easter hasn't quite hit me yet. For all the preparations that I've made and all the goodness I know I should be feeling, I am at a loss. Sunday morning came. The tomb was empty and I have yet to bear witness to the Resurrection.

The last few weeks have been crazy and so it is little wonder that Easter has not brought much change. Instead the turmoil of having traveled twelve hours to a funeral with a community mate, of a misguided trip to the Emergency Room with a client, of allowing life to come together after June, and of bruises from a bike wipe-out has left me much more in the waiting of Holy Saturday than the exaltation of Easter Sunday. And even though each day poses the opportunity for new life, still it feels as if Resurrection is off waiting in the wings somewhere.

Having mentioned all this to a friend yesterday, she glumly remarked "Maybe tomorrow will be Resurrection..."

And, for some reason, what should have been a harrowing statement made me smile.

"Maybe tomorrow." I thought to myself. "There is hope." Such a simple sentiment was resurrection enough for me.

Today as I moved through my day, Resurrection still waited but the turmoil didn't seem quite as tumultuous. The waiting isn't over but I found people to wait with.

Like the women outside the tomb, Joyce had done her share of weeping. The victim of domestic abuse and assault, she had left everything she knew and owned to the man that had emotionally held her captive for years. He burned her clothes. He took out debits in her name. He threatened to throw her out a third floor window. She finally left. Now she's trying to rebuild her life.

I don't exactly know how she got my number. Joyce is from an area that doesn't fall in our parish jurisdiction (far from it) but she wouldn't stop calling. After she hit it off with a volunteer I had call her to set up a home visit, I knew I had to go. Bruised and bandaged I showed up at the gate of the Colonial Gardens apartments, a three-story U-shaped brick building off of a busy thoroughfare. As she let me in the gate, the outside noise all but disappeared, the complex acting as its own sound buffer. First we toured Joyce's empty apartment and then we headed to her sister's place across the way. There we sat and as I filled out a voucher for furniture she told me her story.

She'd lost everything through bad choices and choices beyond her control. Lots of things that should have stood in her way did. In many ways, the road ahead of her is just as long as the one behind her. A cancer survivor, Joyce proudly told me how she'd beat the disease once, but now it seemed it was back in a different part of her body. She denied that this could be true and even though a biopsy at UPenn had found cancerous cells, she wanted a second opinion.

Really, she wanted hope.

She confided in me that she knew it would have to be taken care of but she wanted to make sure she had everything in order before she got any medical treatment. She wanted a house, her own place, to come back to after she was in the hospital. That's why I was there. I gave her a voucher and explained that as soon as she could find a van/truck she could pick up the furniture she needed to enable her to set up her own place. In a way, I was able to say "There is Hope."

That is the root of resurrection. Hope shattered brought tears at the tomb. Hope frightened sent friends to a hidden room. Hope that 'maybe tomorrow' is enough for me to open my eyes to what I'm dearly waiting for.

Friday, April 22, 2011

To Be Alone with You.

Lent has very much been a journey for me. I've found myself among the pages of Exodus, following the trials and tribulations of the Israelites; my own relationship with God and with those that I serve has developed into a journey, taken one step at a time; and from Connecticut to Indiana, I've physically traveled throughout the last forty days. Yet, as Lent comes to a close, I find that the journey has led me to the place where each one of us finds ourselves before the glory of Easter- at the cross.

Last year, I found myself standing before an instrument of murder, a stark structure clothed in a deep crimson cloth. This year it is not the cross itself but Christ's body, particularly his hands that strike me.

Reflecting on the paschal mystery this past Sunday, the pastor of the Jesuit parish, which I frequent here in Philadelphia, examined the nature of mystery. Boiled down, his point was that mystery is Truth. That is, mystery is Truth which can only be understood through means of divine intervention/explanation. Thus, in order to invest in mystery, you must buy into God and you must believe that there are some things that we either will never know or that we can only believe through the grace of God. Heavy enough for you?

Now you might think that'd be enough to keep my mind buzzing for the coming Holy Week, and it probably should have been, but what really struck me was an (almost) off-hand comment that the pastor made in the course of his homily. Speaking about how the mystery of Easter is bound up in our salvation and the salvific mission/role of Christ, he spoke to the image of Christ on the cross. "We must consider that when Jesus was crucified, his arms were stretched out like this," he declared stretching his hands out from the ambo, "this is a position of openness, of readiness for embrace."

Pause. Now if you're anything like me, at this point you may be ready to a) roll your eyes b) write the message off for being hackneyed c) just stop listening, because you've heard this sermon before. And that's what I was prepared to do (and probably why what he said next took me off my guard and stuck with me.)

"With arms open, Jesus waits for us on the cross this week," he continued, "but he can't embrace us. His arms may be open, but his hands are nailed in place, unable to move. In this moment, God, who we encounter so often showing us mercy, is at our mercy."

And like that, hands that I've held so often in prayer, hands that have held me, are bound. God stands open to me, Christ's arms are forced open but his Spirit is freely given. In such violence and vulnerability, love is so very prevalent. A life is given. If I embrace the broken body of God here, mercy is shown, mystery is uncovered, and Truth can be revealed.

What does it mean to give so much? To give everything? To be alone with you?

Here is salvation. Here are hands working for salvation. Here, I Am.

Almost 40 days of silence...

If you had guessed that I gave up blogging for Lent, then I must sadly inform you that you were wrong. If you guessed that my absence was due to laziness, you are also sadly misinformed. In fact, the last few weeks have been filled with lots of things, big and little, paid and unpaid, that have kept me away from my wanderings here on the blog... but have no fear! I've been doing plenty of wondering over the last few weeks and in due time, I'm sure that some of those big and little things will surface here, if not explicitly, definitely in the impact they've had on me. Now with that thoroughly ambiguous note out of the way on to the next post...