Let us carry our tomb experiences into the light of Easter

Sr Monica Cavanagh RSJ

Sr Monica Cavanagh RSJ

As we enter into this Holy Week of reflection and liturgical celebrations, we are called once again to reflect on the weaving of the Paschal Mystery in and through our lives.  The scripture readings of this week invite us to engage the paradoxes of love and betrayal, faithfulness and abandonment, gentleness and violence, life and death. 

As Pope Francis reflects: ‘The Easter Triduum is the memorial of a drama of love that gives us the certainty that we will never be abandoned in life’s trials.’

The communion of love experienced at the Last Supper leads us into the garden of Gethsemane - to the place of anguish where each one of us is faced with this question ‘Can you drink the cup of suffering that I must drink?’ To that place where the outpouring of God’s love leads us to surrender ‘Not my will but yours be done’.  Lk 22:42

Each one of us walks this journey of suffering in solidarity with Jesus, each time we allow ourselves to be moved by the atrocities occurring around our world.  This year marks the 25th anniversary of the 100 days of genocide in Rwanda when 800,000 men, women and children were killed in a war of hatred that has left its mark on the life of Rwandans forever.  Slowly through the process of forgiveness and reconciliation Rwandans have rebuilt their nation.  In recent weeks we have walked with our sisters and brothers in New Zealand in their pain and suffering as they have responded to the Christchurch massacre.  In these experiences we are challenged to reflect on how fear, hatred and destruction can be such a source of suffering.  Such realities engage us in our own fears and hates in both our personal and communal journeys.

Good Friday is the culminating moment of love.  In this moment God, the creator of all life, chooses to join the world’s suffering, and to experience what it means from the inside.  This moment of Jesus’ death teaches us that our God is a God who suffers with us and who wipes away our tears in the death defying moments in the story of planet Earth. Elizabeth Johnson csj writes: ‘The whole life of Jesus—the way he preached, healed, stood up for those on the margins, had conflicts with those in power, and tried to live faithfully to what he was being called in his own prophetic ministry—that’s what leads him to the cross’. Good Friday is a day to know in the depths of our hearts there are moments when we recognise as Jesus did, that ‘it is finished’ and we are led to bow our heads and yield up our spirit. Jn 19:23

We can only enter the joy of Easter through the tomb of Holy Saturday.  This is a day that reminds us that there are gifts in the dark places, gifts that can only mature in the dark places.  Joseph Nangle OFM reminds us ‘The tomb is cold, dark, and lonely. It smells of death. It is not a comfortable place to be. But it is where the Christian community is called to be. To wait here, in the dark, until the light of the Easter vigil is kindled again. And yet, even in this place of death, the seed of life has been planted’.  It is here in the tomb that we enter the womb of solidarity with our sisters and brothers yearning for the Reign of Love to break through in our sometimes wounded and broken world and church. 

As we roll away the stone in our Easter liturgy, let us carry our tomb experiences into the light of Easter.  Let us join with our sisters and brothers all over the world who witness to the resurrection as they courageously build a more just and peaceful world.  Like the women of the Easter gospels, we too long to experience the transforming power of God’s love, as we step into the emerging possibilities that await us in this Easter season.

During these days of the Easter Triduum we pause and reflect:

·         Where do I find myself living into the Paschal Mystery in my current reality?

·         As I stand at the Cross on Good Friday what suffering will I being holding?

·         While sitting at the tomb on Holy Saturday, where will I allow grief to take me?

·         Where is the God of Easter wanting to break through in my life?

As we light the Paschal candle may the spark of new life energise us to move forward as courageous witnesses to the resurrection.

Blessings of Easter peace and joy to all.

Sr Monica Cavanagh RSJ

President, Catholic Religious Australia