Good Friday and Easter Sunday 2018

When you look at your spouse

with shrugged shoulders weighed down with regret

and you say to a face that is broken by disappointment

I’m sorry

 

When you visit someone in hospice

and you wake her from sleep –

and with eyes still closed –

all she can manage to say

over and over

but with no clear recipient

is an apology: I’m sorry; I’m so sorry

 

When you run into a friend, unexpectedly

after not speaking to her or returning her calls

and you see the rejection and hurt flicker in her eyes

and you rush, too quickly (and too late)

to tell her the truth – that, indeed, you are sorry –

but you both know the pain you have caused

which cannot be taken back

 

When you did anything else in your life

that you wish had been only a dream,

and you grimace when it comes to mind

and your only hope is to forget about it again

because that’s the only thing you can do

 

When you realize your own failure, your inadequacy

your lack (or excess) of virtue

when you see so clearly the frailty of the people around you

and the dignity and kindness they deserve but do not receive

when you want to shut your own eyes from the world

and hide from its pain

and when you want to hide

from the pain weighing down your own heart

but only find yourself uttering

silently in your soul: I’m sorry; I’m so sorry

 

When you feel dispirited and despondent, despairing and barren

 

I pray for you, I pray with you, I pray next to you

I pray you would hear, alongside your grief and regret

in anticipation of

and response to your cries

a voice that speaks to your more deeply than your own

 

A voice of one who dwelt among us and loved us

even when we behave like strangers to love and grace

and who, as he faced his own death

thought kindly of us

and prayed on our behalf

 

So that you and I might be granted what we fear even to ask

that you and I might be released from the burden

of guilt and sin

shame and regret

and that our constant, silent apology for the pain we cause

might not only be heard

 

But also forgiven

and set aside

no longer to be counted against us

no longer to be hurled in our face as a weapon

no longer something to be feared

or overcome by.

 

***

 

When you wake from your slumber before dawn

and notice the sound of birds singing to each other

for the first time since winter

had turned the days colder and the nights longer

 

When you realize how deeply

you missed their presence

and how much they calm your spirit

and you wake earlier in the morning

so you can settle into their cadence,

with no other sound in the world but theirs

 

When an absence you had grown used to

is spontaneously filled by beauty

and your reason for getting out of bed

is so subtle, but so compelling

that you cannot will yourself back to sleep

 

When the harsh winds settle

and the evening light tarries

a while longer

and you gaze outside your window

and smile at what you see

 

When you ease into

the remembered rhythm

of taking time to be outside again

to fill yourself with fresh air

to note the colors and scenes

of your ever-interesting world

refashioning itself once more

right in front of you

 

When you reconnect with an old friend

whose company you thought you had enjoyed the last of

and when you both find yourselves

comfortable with each other

more comfortable, even

now that you have grown into more of who

you were always becoming

 

When the smallest remnant of a candle

is lit early one morning

and against any expectation

a flame flickers in the dark

its light dancing above on the ceiling

 

And you are reminded

of every small miracle you have witnessed

when you have kindled a fire

out of nothing

 

But damp twigs and branches

cast down from their homes in the trees

and consigned to the ground

to grow no more

 

When something that was trod upon

and broken

and buried under leaves

 

When what was once discarded and pushed aside to be forgotten

is suddenly raised from the earth and reinvigorated

ignited, and transformed into

light and warmth and fearsome fire –

 

Because the world needs it: It needs

more light, more warmth, more grace, more kindness, more charity, more justice, more vision

more of the fearsome fire of God –

 

Always dispelling the dark silence of night and death

and forever drawing out our gaze

unceasingly the master of our attention

unfailingly our guide through the day

and our guard through the night

 

When you are inspired all over again

when you are changed from the dull ache of death and fear and into something new

that is God’s goodness flowing once more

this time perceptibly

into your life and into the world around you.

 

The world needs a fire to be kindled

not only out of the brittle branches of our broken Lord

but also out of what time and capacities

we have been given to command

 

God intends to make a fire

to burn brightly out of each one of our fallen-apart lives

 

We can resist, of course

overcome with amazement and fear at what might come our way

we can remain forever silent

when we ask ourselves what we believe in our hearts happened that first Easter morning

we can stay down on the ground

buried under the leaves

forever to have our hearts trod upon and our lives disregarded

 

Or

 

We can allow God to do something new with us

something we could never imagine

 

To raise us up, as well

from where we find ourselves

to reinvigorate us unexpectedly and against all odds

and to be transformed with Christ into

new light, new warmth, a new fearsome fire from God

because the world needs a fire to be kindled: It needs

more light, more warmth, more grace, more kindness, more charity, more justice, and more vision

and God has come to raise you from the leaves.