Since Thanksgiving, which is to say, since the start of this Liturgical Year, I have been running again. I started out slow, just a mile or so. Sometimes I would even stop to walk. I have progressed since then. I even downloaded an app for my phone to see my numbers and pace. Having been a track runner in high school, the app helped motivate me. I am more steadily and regularly running a 5K at least 3 times a week and have pushed the envelope to 10K here and there.
Racing through the Liturgical Year is an apt, though perhaps not completely reverent metaphor. But it is certainly what Holy Week is like from the parish point of view. While many may have been off on Spring Break, those of us in parish life were preparing for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, which prefigures the Easter Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Great Vigil of Easter. The latter overflows with those entering the church through full initiation amidst the renewal of baptismal vows by the Faithful. We may be racing around now, but we are certainly breathless with the Spirit by week’s end. How else can one contain the news that He Lives!
One other aspect has brought together life events and the unfolding of the Liturgical Year. I’ve experienced the recent death of someone close to me and have people who are close to me who have also been touched by recent deaths. It was apt that at the Third Scrutiny celebrated on the 5th Sunday of Lent we heard the Year A Gospel of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. While all ends with the sure revelation that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, even Jesus is visibly disturbed by these events as we recall the memorable verse: “And Jesus wept.”
The Palm Sunday Passion reading is no different in its deliberative confrontation with death and today’s Monday Gospel reading for Holy Week also brings us back to Lazarus and Jesus and Mary anointing Jesus. This prefigures Jesus washing the feet of his disciples as well as his own death and burial.
As an adult and also as someone who works in a parish, it has been a unique privilege to experience the evidence of things not seen in the gathering of the grieving and believing community at Christian funeral Mass. It is typically during such moments that the true measure of the departed is known, held and reverenced by family and friends. The simple comforts of our belief in eternal life meet the daily requirements needed to nourish and sustain those beliefs. More generally, in the repast or in the weeks that follow as life returns to “normal” there is also the living testimony of what kind of believers are we? More than just those who know the prayers or believe the Good News, how do we continue the work of the Kingdom in the absence of things not seen?
On one such weekend I attended the wake, funeral, and repast for the mother of a high school and college friend. Her home was my Bethany. The following day, I met up with another high school friend. He is the godfather to both my children: my daughter who is with us and my son who is with God. We have been to the tomb of Lazarus together. He is also the one who got me running again. We went for a run in my old hometown. I had meant to run 10K with him, but was only able to go 5K.
After the run, we returned to my childhood home on the Jersey Shore where my mother had prepared a Filipino feast. She was amazed at our energy and vigor, but equally perplexed why we did not splurge on the banquet prepared for us. We did eat some dried fish and then we went our separate ways: He to NY; me back to VA.
I have a feeling I will be seeing him and my mother again after Easter. It may be at or after another memorial service. We will gather again. We will share stories about the people who have touched our lives and what they leave behind in the things not seen. We will share a meal that anticipates our own memorial and the heavenly banquet. And we will depart, uplifted and breathless again. Nourished and sustained by that feast and belief, we run sharing the news “He Lives!”
- Easter, like Spring, is a celebration of New Life. But before his glorious resurrection, how do we prepare a place to deal with suffering and death?
- Where else in your life do you minister to those suffering or grieving a loss and find a deepening of faith in things unseen?
© Copyright 2016 Jay Cuasay
Photography, The Home in Bethany, Jay Cuasay, April 2011. All Rights Reserved.
About the Author
Jay Cuasay is a freelance writer on religion, interfaith relations, and culture. A post-Vatican II Catholic father with a Jewish spouse, he is deeply influenced by Christian mysticism and Zen Buddhism. He was a regular columnist on Catholicism for examiner.com and a moderator and contributor to several groups on LinkedIn. His LTEs on film and Jewish Catholic relations have been published in America and Commonweal. Jay ministered to English and Spanish families at a Franciscan parish for 13 years. He can be reached at TribePlatypus.com.