Now What?

Still she trusts.

Rising again, she wonders anew what today will bring. Evening has come, and morning has followed: the first day of the week. The day of rest has ended, and it is time to get to work.

The other women are gone. She is by herself in her sorrows. She is often alone, reflecting on her joys and sorrows in her heart. She has often been by herself in recent years. But these days have brought on a new loneliness. Her parents and her husband are gone, for many years now. Her Son is gone, brutally executed just days ago. And now her women companions are gone, leaving her alone in her room. Once long ago when she was alone in a room, she felt a great presence; now, a desolation. She doesn’t even have the energy to cry or lament. She simply does what she has always done: she rises, and she trusts.

She wanders through the house, as His friends are beginning to rise. The other women are not here either. They have gone to the tomb, perhaps. Where else would they go so early? So she sees to His friends’ needs herself. They have not left her alone in her grief; she will not leave them in theirs. They were His brothers; they are her sons. The other women – it is all hard to process, for all of them, even for herself. They trust, surely, as she trusts. Yet they grieve, as she grieves.

She passes by the door, and sees a dark red smudge. And she suddenly recalls leaning against the door on her return the other night. She hadn’t noticed it before. No one has, it seems. All are lost in their own minds, their own hearts. Even she has been fighting not to be consumed by the mystery of it all, something she has felt herself doing ever since that first question to her strange visitor decades ago: “How can this be?” She asks the question again now, in trust, in the silence of her heart, as she looks upon the blood on the doorpost, from her own Lamb slaughtered in the evening twilight.

The door flies open, and it shakes her from her reverie. It is the other women, frenzied and shaken. They clutch her as they run amongst his friends, frantically shouting about what they had seen: the stone rolled from the tomb, and empty scene inside, strangers in white speaking the impossi–no, not the impossible. “For nothing shall be impossible for God.” His friends are disturbed, but she is struck to the core. She is unable to move as she ponders this new turn of events in her heart.

It suddenly occurs to her: where is little Mary? Where is Magdalene? Was she not with the others?

As if in answer, little Mary comes racing in, her beaming face streaked with tears. She has seen Him, she says. He is alive, He is risen, He is returning to our Father and God. He sent her to tell everyone. Peter and John have heard enough, it seems, as they hurriedly leave the house. The others, both the men and the women, talk and argue amongst themselves at the door of the house and make their way outside into the dawning light. No one notices her retreat, slowly, softly, back to her room.

How long she sits there she does not know. Seconds, minutes, hours – time no longer has meaning. Less two nights ago she came into this house with her Son’s blood all over her. Yesterday she spent her day of rest full of questions and wonder and sadness, as she processed what the day of this miracle Son of hers must mean, and if His friends – her new children – would ever be the same. And now this – “nothing shall be impossible for God,” but who could conceive of this? Is this some new sword to pierce her already bleeding heart? Or something more? Something new? She wonders if her Son had moments like this, and how many. How many moments like the one He shouted from the cross in His final moments? How many feelings of abandonment, loneliness, powerlessness? How many temptations to let that great love and trust, which had seen them both through to this moment, falter?

At last, in her heart she allows herself one moment, and a sound escapes her throat. It is a wail – of sorrow, of surprise, of more than thirty years of silent patience and anguish and anxieties and, through it all, trust, all focused into one single triumphant blast of sound in that small, lonely room. It is a relief, it is an embarrassment, it is a prayer, it is a question.

“Woman: behold your Son.”

She gasps and spins around, taken aback by the forcefulness of the word she had just heard. Was it in the room, or in her heart? Wide-eyed, she sees young John standing in her doorway, sweaty and out of breath but not tired. She sees the look on his face, and she knows. She doesn’t know how she knows, but she knows. They look into each other’s eyes for a few timeless moments, not knowing what to do or say, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. After a few moments, he steps forward says simply, “He is not there.”

She extends her arms, and her son runs straight into them. They embrace in silence. There is no anxiety in it, no anguish, no fear and trembling. He holds on to her like a loving child, and she returns it with a mother’s gentle hand and a soft kiss. She sighs, and she smiles.

And still she trusts.

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Meditation on the Joyful Mysteries on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph

“Behold a faithful and prudent steward, whom the Lord set over His whole household.”

Behold Saint Joseph, patron of the universal Church, guardian of Your whole Body, prince of the priesthood of the faithful – not immaculate, not sinless, but righteous all the same. He was the first to bring You to Your Father’s house, ransoming You from the Father to humanity so that You could ransom humanity for the Father. Fulfilling the precepts of the Old Law sacrifices, he presaged those of the New. This is why he could only lose You here, in the presence of the Father where You desire all of us to lose ourselves. The singular lapse of his constant watch occurred in the one place You – and we – would always be safe.

Years later, You would give Your servant Peter “the keys to the kingdom of heaven,” setting him up as the steward of your royal house on earth, the one who could be trusted even in frailty to guide and guard the new and eternal Israel of the Church. And in doing so it was as if You were saying, “Be for my sheep what Joseph was for the Shepherd; be the protector, be the guardian, be the father that even I needed on earth. Be, son of Jonah, a faithful one whom the members of my Body can be obedient to, just as the Head of the Body was obedient to a faithful son of David.” May Saint Joseph, in his turn, protect and guide his successors and all the members of Your Body in integrity and righteousness, and may Your Church remain a royal priesthood entire.

“He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.”

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“Merciful Like the Father,” Part 50 – More Than a Slave

Fiftieth in a series of reflections on Mass readings during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Wisdom 9:13-18b; Philemon 1:9-10, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33

In the 1970s Mother Teresa – today enrolled in the ranks of the Saints by Pope Francis – was asked in an interview about the poorest country she had ever visited. She said, “I have been to many countries and seen much poverty and suffering. Everywhere I go people tell me of their hardships and struggles, and ask for help, and I give what I can. But of all the countries I have been to, the poorest one I have been to is America.” When asked why, she replied, “Because America suffers most from the poverty of loneliness.” Her words, sadly enough, seem more true today than they did 40 years ago. There’s always a void we just can’t seem to fill. We know just enough to know that the solution lies outside ourselves. But for all the goods we accumulate, for all the knowledge we gain, for all the like-minded “Friends” and “Followers” we have, somehow it’s never enough. For all our reaching out, we’re still stuck inside ourselves.

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