Much of the world is celebrating the joys of Easter. The earth is awakening with newness of spring: flowers, smell of cut grass, the appearance of the sun after a long and dark winter. Easter is in the air.
For those who have traveled amidst the pain and the confusion and trauma of Good Friday, the hope-filled message of Easter is critical and welcomed.
We celebrate Easter with eyes wide open. We do not gloss over or minimize the crucifixion; we remember and touch our wounds and the wounds of others. As a society – and as a church – too often we are tempted to gloss over the wounds in order to quickly move to peace and tranquility. The Paschal Mystery (suffering, death and resurrection of Christ) is central to a spirituality of forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.
Just as we cannot reach the resurrection without the crucifixion, we cannot remain in the brokenness of Good Friday. We cannot embrace a stance of the impossible. We must willingly do what is uncomfortable and frightening while embracing a stance of hope.
Cardinal Blasé Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, joined others on Good Friday walking among the cries and tears of the violence on the south side of Chicago. At each station, names of the 163 already killed in 2017 were read aloud. Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who had lost a loved one gathered and walked alongside Cardinal Cupich and a community of people. Young people, who, themselves, were victims of violence, joined their stories with the stories of others. One child, only 10 years old, spoke of the violence and how it had caused him so much fear and pain. The silence of the moment was only broken by a thunderous applause and words of support. The message was clear, you are not alone.
Holy Saturday, brought together mothers, grandmothers, sisters, girlfriends who, like Mary,
had lost a loved one to violence. Our community of men, ministers and children gathered with them, walking and praying at places of violence and bloodshed. Our youth, shared stories of their friends and support persons gunned down right before their eyes. Even after a year they still feel the loss, remembering the moments, the sounds, the weeping. Every day they live over and over Good Friday, Holy Saturday, while hoping life will get better and they will come to their Easter!
As we walked through the community and shared our stories with one another, hope began to emerge and overwhelm the violence of Good Friday. Stories of triumph emerged amidst the tears. One mother shared how she had been reborn; the death of her son opened a new beginning for her as she turned away from addiction and toward a God who was so very close.
In her telling of her Good Friday story standing by her son’s bloody body, covered in the white cloth, she never neglects to tell the ending of her story – her son’s death gave her new life.
Our final stop was at our “Healing Fountain’ in out Peace Garden. There Father Denny blessed our new statue of the pieta and one of our local ministers closed with prayer for healing.
Easter Sunday mass here at PBMR was filled with friends and community members – young and old – celebrating the gift of new life.
We know that Good Friday moments will continue, but so, too, does the promise of the resurrection. Violence will not have the final word.
Easter is among us. It may not come with the pageantry of alleluias and shouts of joy, but be seen in the simple, and yet profound, recognition that you are my brother or sister.