It has been a long Lent. For some families who have recently lost loved ones to disasters, illness and the whole gamut of human vulnerability Lent may be just beginning, but Lent, like everything has an end. That is the really amazing thing about life.
The argument I hear most often for why I don’t need God is something along the lines that God isn’t doing a good enough job, what with all the suffering we face, or that we can overcome suffering on our own power – if we just try hard enough. But neither option takes in the big picture. For in the end – there is an end. And that is what Lent teaches us. Ash Wednesday begins with the words, “Man though art dust and to dust though shalt return.” We try, in our own humble way, to offer something up, to sacrifice for the discipline of it and the hope that we will be better people for the effort. All the while we are living, people around us are dying. We try to understand the tragedies of missing planes, sunken boats, exploding vans, cancer, war, and deadly violence. But we can’t completely understand. No more than can we see behind a curtain. No more than an ant can comprehend the city it lives in. We have limits and we suffer the pains of a humanity which cannot fix itself. We can heal some wounds – but not all. We can love a great deal, but we can’t quite make ourselves, or anyone else, perfect.
But Lend does end. We have a hope of healing and perfection that goes beyond our present sight. We believe in the unbelievable – that God so loved the world that He sent His son who lived, died, and rose again – for us. That there is life everlasting and that we can be a part of that. That all we suffer here does have meaning. That tragedies are not the last sentence in the book of life. That our confusion, our loss, is temporary.
Today, as my kids and I prepare for the Easter joy – we have hope. We can’t describe exactly where my husband, their father, John, is living today because it is not our place to say – but we believe in hope, we live there. As the spring rises from the dead of winter, God proclaims, one more time, that He lives and that He can do anything. When St. John the apostle stood at the foot of the cross and watched the love of his life die, he lived in that same hope. When he wrote the last chapter of the bible he said, “And the Lord shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, not crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away.” (John 21:4) In saying this, he passed his hope onto us, for all nations and all times.
So though we will celebrate Easter tomorrow – we know that the real celebration is yet to come – but it will come. The Easter joy we know today is only a glimpse of the joy we hope for.