Spirituality of the Readings
The word haunts me this Easter. Yes, the promise of all ages has now been fulfilled in the Resurrection, and we rejoice.
Even so, we have to wait for our slow selves to understand. We are forced to learn patience.
Remember how Jesus was so unhurried when he learned that Lazarus, his friend, was dying in Bethany, not far away from where he was? He delayed four days going there. In other words, he waited “forever,” in emotional time. Mary and Martha, those close friends of Jesus, did without him as they buried their brother and grieved. Jesus finally got there and each sister cried out words that tore into him.
You could have saved our brother!
And then he replied, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
On this day we rejoice because we can see that this statement of his was true. This day it is spread out before us in the Great Celebration of Easter.
We followers of God and his Christ take a long long time to get beneath the surface of this feast, to put ourselves into the hands of what, after all, is not a money-back guarantee, but a promise. "You will be my people and I will be your God." It is so tough for us to drink the milk of trust in the same way a child drinks at its mother’s breast. We have to decide to entrust still another sluggish part of ourselves to God and to his promise.
Maybe the length of the Easter Vigil Service helps us to take in this fact. In the full service there are ten readings, including the Epistle and the Gospel, together with a candle-lighting-ceremony (“Light of Christ”), and numerous Baptisms. Patience is the name of the game at Easter Vigil. Maybe it is for the same reason Jesus made the two sisters wait.
The darkness of Easter Vigil, lit only by candles, lets us hear, in sequence, how God created us and blessed us, how he called upon and counted on Abraham, how he rescued the Hebrew people as they ran from their captors in the desert journey (and ran from God too).
For a “brief moment,” we are told, God lost patience and turned away, but then “with enduring love” took his people back, offering water to the thirsty and grain to the poor. Can we trust this? How much?
You will be my people and I will be your God.
Finally the Gospel is proclaimed, announcing an empty tomb! The women in the story believe. The men don’t. At least not right away.
How about you? Do you believe? Is Jesus risen or is he not? Is it just a child’s fable, after all?
On this glorious Easter weekend, after we have reacted just like the disciples on those seemingly never-ending post-crucifixion days, and even after we sing songs about resurrection, still we do it by faith and trust. We hear it anew, maybe now more profoundly.
We wait, joyfully. Halleluiah!
Ultimately we are asked which path we will follow. The skeptical, calculating path of doubters, or the trusting, patient route of those who keep learning to believe—above all and after all—in the tender mercy of God.
John Foley, SJ
Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
**From Saint Louis University