I sat in the big comfy chair in my living room ready to enjoy the predawn quiet, a cup of freshly brewed coffee with plenty of extra cream on the small table by my side and my Bible, journal, and sharpened pencil in my lap. I was ready to begin my “Coffee with Jesus,” time as the boys and I call it. This morning I was to begin 1 Timothy, but I just couldn’t bring myself to open The Book.
I’d never had this problem before. Oh sure, there have been more days than I care to admit to that I just skipped my Bible reading because I had other things I just had to do or because I had woken up later than I’d intended. Reality is, as much as I don’t want to admit it, I know there will be more of those days when I’m just, “too busy,” ahead.
But for me to have the time and just not want to start, to have woken up early enough, to have all the boys still sleeping in darkness, to have extra days off from my teaching job, and to just not want to read the Bible was unexpected and thought-provoking, and instead I sat reflecting on the Holy Week.
I began the Holy Week in New York where Cardinal Dolan had asked parishes to celebrate Reconciliation Monday. Every parish in the Archdiocese held Confession from 3:00 – 9:00 pm the Monday before Easter. I took advantage of this opportunity and dropped by a small church only to find long lines and one priest handling many sinners. I soon realized that even on this busy day, there was only one priest for this parish. The man sat for over six hours, since people were still waiting past the 9:00 ending time. The man patiently listened to my sins and spoke kindly with me, never rushing, ever gentle in the forgiveness Jesus offered me through him.
FORGIVEN – What a way to begin the week!
Holy Week continued, and I attended Tenebrae Service on Good Friday, a gray and drizzly day back in my hometown. I listened to the readings and wondered about the Passover and the power of the Lord to protect Jewish homes from the plague that would kill firstborn Egyptian males. I hurt for those who had lost loved ones those thousands of years ago and began thinking of all the firstborn sons I knew, beginning with my own, my nephews, my brother and cousins, friends’ sons. How sorrow-filled we’d be without them! What a permanent hole their loss would leave in the lives of so many! I wondered how we would have gone on. I also wondered about the power the Lord yields over us even today, protecting each of us from unknown terrors and heartbreaking hardships. I thanked the Lord for His protection over each of the firstborn sons I knew and over us all.
During Tenebrae, as I watched the lights be extinguished one by one during the service, I was again filled with awe over what the Lord Jesus Christ was willing to do for us and how little we are willing to do for Him. I have a hard time putting that into words.
I stayed afterward with a small group and began the Novena Before the Feast of Divine Mercy and thought about the power we are given through it. I thought of Jesus telling Saint Faustina that the group who cause Him the greatest suffering are those with lukewarm and indifferent souls. I thought of how many people I knew who are lukewarm or “good enough” Christians. I thought of how often I had acted like that, how often I still act like that. I thought of the power given to us to bring souls to Christ. I thought of the power people seek and how misguided our goals are, how powerless we become by the things we seek to make us powerful.
I attended Easter Vigil Holy Saturday and had spoken to someone earlier who asked why I wanted to attend such a long Mass. He was incredulous and warned me about the dreariness of such a long prayer session. He warned that, if there was an adult joining the Catholic faith, Mass would be even longer. I hadn’t remembered attending Easter vigil before. It’s not something one easily does with young children. I wiped the comments from my mind and looked forward to the Mass.
I met the shadowed group gathered around the small bonfire behind the church and took a candle someone passed to me. I arrived too late to be close to the front (a note to self for next year!) and had difficulty hearing our soft-spoken priest, but there was a solemnness to the night, a quiet, a calm, and yet an anticipatory, gentle excitement in the air.
After a few moments, the priest, holding the Paschal candle, led the procession of six altar servers and gathered faithful to the front of the church. Even the wind, that had blown before the procession, halted, allowing us to make our way into the church candle still aglow.
Mass began with the sharing of the flame and then, we extinguished our flames in darkness, leaving us in darkness and began the reading of Creation from the Book of Genesis. I was reminded of our trip to the Creation Museum in Kentucky and thought of all the people who don’t understand that God really did create the world. I thought of my own friends, family members, and loved ones who doubt that God would (or could?) create the world in seven days. I marveled at the Lord’s plans right from the very first moment He created the Earth.
The readings of the Old Testament continued in utter darkness, only the Paschal candle and small lights for the lectors and the choir high up in the rafters, lit the church. And what an amazing job the choir did. I had never before heard such beauty coming from our small church choir, and it took all my willpower to not turn around and stare! I tried in vain to hold onto those Psalms so I could sing them to myself later.
We read through Moses and Abraham and King David and others and then we were done with the Old Testament.
And suddenly, the lights went on! We blinked with the brilliance of the glow after so long in darkness! The altar servers led a joyful ringing of the bells that lasted longer than any I had ever heard! It was a brilliant light, a glorious sound! And, as our eyes adjusted and I saw even our good-humored Pastor blinking and smiling as though he were holding back a chuckle in the brilliance, I wondered if this would be what Heaven would be like. Choirs belting out song in perfect harmony, light filling the world, and souls filled with Love!
To make the Mass extra-special, a man from a family I’ve known and loved for a long time, a man I’ve seen often in church and always assumed was Catholic, was Baptized and Confirmed. I watched as his sponsor stood by his side. I watched as he gave his word rejecting Satan, vowing to Love the Lord, and promising to live the Catholic faith. I fought back tears of Joy and Love and looked around to all the Good Men in the church, many of whom I’ve known for years. My heart swelled as I thanked the Lord for these men, strong leaders of their families, Loving, faithful Husbands, devoted, involved Fathers. To say I was happy the Lord put these men in our lives would be a gross understatement. So many good men who don’t realize the impact they have on those around them or the number of people giving thanks for them. I prayed for their wives and children, for their families and friends, and I prayed my own children would see these men as role models and imitate them.
I was moved beyond words and fought back tears again. I was reminded again to not compromise if I ever looked for Love again. I again realized that it would be better to live alone than to be unequally yoked. i was reminded how much I desired a mate who would share in my eternal journey, not just one for the sunny days we share here on earth. I was inspired to wait for God to decide my path rather than trying to make Him work with my plans as I had in my past.
I can feel a lump in my throat and a sting in my eyes remembering this, even now.
I left Mass almost three hours after it had begun, and the time had flown by. How was it possible that Easter vigil was over already? There was a brief moment about three quarters of the way through Mass that I did get tired, but that moment passed without my realization of it, and I knew this was something I’d celebrate every year I possible. I wondered whether Kaleb would be old enough to make it through Easter vigil next year but knew I’d have plenty of time to decide that later.
And then before I knew it, it was Sunday night, and the best day of Easter was over.
The kids came home and started a week’s worth of homework. I would not have to go back to my Catholic school teaching job for a few more days, but the hustle and bustle of life with five boys had begun already. Today, there’d be lunches to be made and school carpool lines, baseball practice and Boy Scouts.
And I really just wanted to hold onto Easter.
I wanted to hold onto the Hope that comes through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I wanted to live a life spent blinking in the glorious Light that comes after the darkness of the Old Testament. I didn’t want this period to end. I wanted to revel in the Resurrection and what that means for me as a former Wife, as a Mother, as a daughter, as a friend, as a teacher, as a sinner, as a Child of God.
I didn’t want to read about the hardships faced shortly after the Lord Jesus Christ walked this earth as a man. I didn’t want to face the reality of the suffering the martyrs faced. I didn’t want to hear their disappointment or acknowledge their need to encourage those who faltered in their faith. I wanted to live in the moment that occurs from knowing Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.
But that rising is not the end of the story. There was much that occurred afterward. There was my favorite part of this whole God thing – the descending of the Holy Spirit. And because of the Holy Spirit’s work today, the story continues beyond the Resurrection, beyond Jesus Christ to today and into the future, and it continues beyond the hardships faced by those disciples to the hardships faced by all of us in the world today and to those our children will face in future generations. But hardship is not the end of the story either.
Because of the Father, we have a plan. Because of Jesus Christ we have a future. Because of the Holy Spirit, the story continues in strength and Love and we are powerful enough to meet it.
If we had stopped with the Resurrection, there would be so much of the story we’d have missed, and so, despite wanting to stop time in a glorious moment, the Lord expects more of us. He expects us to pick up our own Crosses and follow Him.
I didn’t want to read the Bible, but I will. I will read and learn more about how the Lord wants me to act. I will read about the hardships faced by my ancestors. I will learn and grow and live out my faith in as good of a way as my human failings let me live it. I will teach my children about the story that continues beyond the Resurrection.
I know this is a long post; thank you for reading and Happy Easter!