Amid The Drama
In January 1985 we moved into the new home that we had just built. As soon as we began to see signs of Spring, our efforts were concentrated on the outdoors, preparing the yard for grass, flowers and landscaping. Recalling one evening in particular, as we worked the cool damp soil around the house, we talked about the positive results of the home pregnancy test I had taken over the weekend. At that moment life was very good and we were beyond excited to be expecting our first child, the first grandchild for my side of the family. While it was tempting to share our joy with family and friends, we agreed to wait until I had seen my doctor.
In the wee hours of the next morning, exhausted from our yard work the previous evening and deep in slumber, we were awakened by the ringing of our doorbell. Jerry went ahead of me to answer the door. I made my way down the hallway, entering the kitchen where I heard the words that forever changed my life. My brother had taken his own life. In an instant, the very breath of the joy of life, the joy I felt about the new life within me, was completely sucked from my being as I was literally unable to breathe.
I share this story knowing that many of you have had similar life-altering, take-the-breath-of-the-joy-of-life-away experiences; experiences so dramatic you are not sure you will survive. We are nearing the end of the holiest week of the Church year, a week filled with drama – drama that changed the lives of Jesus’ mother and followers. In an instant, the very breath of the joy of the life they had come to know with the one they called son, Lord and brother was taken away, their lives forever changed.
Let’s imagine ourselves amid the drama of this past week. Were we among the crowd waving palm branches as Jesus triumphantly rode into Jerusalem? Was that a joyous moment for us, as his mother or one of the apostles, as we saw our beloved being shown such reverence? Maybe we were one of the apostles gathered at the table for the Passover feast, never feeling closer to the one we called Messiah as He washed our feet. How did we feel as we witnessed the miracle of all miracles as Jesus changed the bread and wine into His body and blood?
Were we among those Jesus asked to go to the garden with Him to pray? Feeling like life could not get much better, did we relax and fall asleep in the garden, failing our master in his hour of need? What were we doing as the scene continued to unfold as Jesus was handed over to Pontius Pilate? Did we watch in horror, literally unable to breathe, as Jesus was nailed to the cross, suffering a bloody, brutal death? In an instant, was the very breath of the joy of life we had come to know with Jesus, our son, Lord and brother, completely sucked from our being?
As we continue the drama of Holy Week, what happens next is beyond our comprehension. Like the apostles of Jesus, we will breathe in the fresh air of the new life of the resurrection. From the darkness of sin and death, Jesus’ resurrection will bring us new life through the cleansing waters of the Easter Vigil as bask in the light of Easter morning.
Amid the drama, we can only imagine what it would have been like to be there when Jesus died. Through scripture, we learn that the apostles were thrown into a time of fear and uncertainty. At the news of my brother’s suicide, I, too, was uncertain I would survive to ever see the light again. I was angry that the breath of the joy of life, the joy I felt about the new life within me, was completely sucked from my being. I was not sure I could dig deep enough to find that joy again, much less share it with anyone else. Within a couple of days after my brother’s death, through what I believe to be the promptings of the Holy Spirit, Jerry and I shared our news with my family before I had seen my doctor. With the news of the new life within me, my family began to dispel the darkness. As we saw the light through the hope of new life, we realized this was a new beginning, and like those first apostles, that even the joy of Easter morning is not the end, but the beginning, a beginning that never ends because of the promise of eternal life.
I pray that we can conclude the holiest week of the Church year experiencing the joy of Easter. Like the apostles, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, may we move past our fear and uncertainty. After the resurrection, Jesus did not focus on the past failings of his followers, but instead, Jesus looked to the new life ahead, offering the gifts of peace and reconciliation. Jesus commissioned the apostles to pass those gifts on to others. They did their part. Called too by Jesus, it is now our mission to do the same.
May the joy of the resurrection bring each one of us peace and hope for the future. Amen.
Brenda Hopf is a member of Divine Mercy Parish in Dubois County and also contributes to the “Sharing the Load” column in The Message.