I inhaled the richness of lilies and incense. A riot of color bloomed along the altar. Familiar words washed over me: prayers over humble bread and wine, taking me out of time. To my right, the image of Jesus beckoned, rays shining forth from his heart. Blood and water; the stuff of true life. As I bowed my head, tears came.
Because I wasn’t feeling much of anything. A little anxiety. But mostly nothing.
Matt Maher’s “Christ is Risen” echoed through my thoughts on Divine Mercy Sunday: O death, where is your sting? O hell, where is your victory?
Right here, I thought. That’s where they are. I still felt that sting of death, and felt it strongly. Now halfway through this Easter season of tremendous glory and promise, I find myself, this year, lacking in joy and doubting the Father’s promises of the Resurrection. Specifically, a fear of death and a preference for this earthly life over the next have pervaded my heart for months.
Though our life is far from perfect--everyday busyness, sleepless nights with toddlers, chores we can never quite keep up with--I count myself abundantly blessed by my husband and our beautiful children, and by our relative lack of major hardship at the moment. It’s a life so precious I’m scared to let go of it and be separated by death.
When I pray to be made holy, to reach my heavenly home, the back of my mind hastily and shamefully adds, but please not yet, Father.
Where, then, does someone who desires eternal life, but not yet--I desire it selfishly, on my own terms--find consolation in the Resurrection? In my current state, the thought of eternity cuts me to the core. It brings me not hope, but worry that all I hold close on earth will be lost to me in heaven. I wonder what I’ll miss out on, and more significantly, who I will miss out on.
Of course I’m aware, intellectually, that my soul’s fulfillment will be found in the presence of God. Theoretically, I will want for nothing at the heavenly wedding feast. But theory can be hard to wrap your head around when your heart’s so agitated. Surrendering such gifts to the Lord, trusting that they are impermanent and not mine to determine, feels...reckless. An abandonment I seek, but don’t yet feel strong enough for.
As I make my way through this spiritual storm--one in which, in spite of myself, I remain confident will end in a heart more united with Christ’s--I’ve realized the shortcomings of my thinking. I say that my circumstances, while fortunate, are imperfect. In the realest sense of the word, they’re unfinished. And that’s the point.
The Lord isn’t done working on my heart yet. He’s not done with yours, either.
If your Easter season has felt similar to mine, whether because of the stresses of engagement, a recent loss, tensions in your relationship, a literal lack of new life as it relates to your fertility, or otherwise, know I am there beside you. I’m trying daily to embrace this tension, rather than push it aside, to silence it, and miss an opportunity to be loved by the Father in this particular way.
Just this past Sunday, I felt myself coming back to life, no small matter in these weeks centered on triumph over death. It struck me that in this year’s reading cycle, we hear Jesus’s same words on consecutive Sundays: Peace be with you.
We are invited to experience Christ in the flesh; incarnate. We are invited to reject fear--John describes the disciples’ fear as they hid, locked in a room, after the Resurrection and Luke recounts their terror and uncertainty at meeting the risen Jesus--and walk headlong into the ocean of peace and mercy he wishes so fiercely to surround us with.
I listened again to the Eucharistic prayers and prepared for my own encounter with Jesus’s body and blood. The altar, the surroundings, the Divine Mercy image were all the same as before. But this time I was a little different. Not yet fully delivered of my worry and my desire to cling to the things and people of this life, but on the way. My own road to Emmaus where, at the end, Christ will meet me in a breaking of bread. Self-gift and recognition.
Sorrow, even at Easter time, is alright. Give yourself permission to feel your aches fully, knowing feelings, though human and important, aren’t everything. Whether we feel it or we don't, the fact remains that we are daughters and sons of a reckless, undying love.
No matter what’s in your heart, particularly in light of your wedding and marriage, thank the Father for bringing you close to his heart. Cry out to him. The Cross signifies both agony and ecstasy. It’s so hard when all we can feel is the former, but it's not the end of the road. In whatever ways you are called to rise, you have my prayers.
Peace be with you.