Christ's Appearance to Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov, 1835 Wikimedia Commons

Mary Marrocco: We’re called to pour out the spirit of our lives

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  • May 4, 2018

It’s normal to return anger with anger, bitterness with bitterness, cunning with cunning.  

How strange, then, to hear stories of saints who were “good” in prison or during persecution, in times of famine or epidemic, and in environments of deprivation and antagonism. We do not always grasp how extraordinary it is to keep peace, hope and charity in such settings, especially when these are chronic or dominant.

I spent a day in court with a friend. We waited on a back bench for the pertinent case to come up.  Because it was a long wait and we were sitting with everybody else who was waiting, we couldn’t help but observe the many defendants whose cases were called. 

One by one they shuffled forward. Their stories were succinctly told and discussed as they stood silent, and decisions about them were made or deferred by strangers. 

Some of them were hunched and bowed, some agitated, one or two nonchalant, but all were scuffed and smudged by life. 

The snippets read dispassionately by various court officials gave only veiled hints of the lives that brought them there. But their faces and forms carried the whole story. 

Over the few hours we spent on those benches, many universes of human pain passed before us. Our bodies were seizing, our minds numbing, and our spirits becoming singed and seared like a bird’s wings passing close to too many fires. But we were mere bystanders. What is it like for spirits, bodies and minds that are always close to the fire, immersed in the various kinds of anguish wrought by human plans and messes? It’s tough not to be beaten down, and tough to call on love and joy rather than succumbing to resentment and meanness.

“Shine, shine!” Eastertide hymns urge us. “Be radiant! Rejoice, be glad,” not for a moment, but always, because inside us, inside the world and at the heart of the universe, is an ever-flowing irrepressible spring of life and joy available to everyone. 

This is the 2,000-year-old news of the Gospel. Sometimes that news seems like mail that never got delivered, even if you look around the church and see the same kind of bent-over figures sitting in the same kind of back benches. What’s going on? Why can real life seem so separate from the paschal mystery?

Partly, it’s hard for us to “get it.” Like the first disciples, including the apostles, it’s hard for us to let go of our Good Fridays and bloom in the Easter light.  

Bodies and souls that have held much pain and darkness might need long, patient help to receive the healing medicine freely offered them. Where does that help come from?

There’s a clue in the words Peter spoke at the very beginning, as handed down to us in the Acts of the Apostles (10:41):  The risen Christ appeared “not to all the people but to us, the witnesses chosen by God.” 

Jesus could have appeared to everybody, first in Galilee, later in the Roman Empire, or today anywhere on the planet. He could have offered everybody bread and fish, allowed us all to hear His real voice and invited us to touch the wounds in His real hands.  

Instead, He did this with only a few, among all the billions of humans He’s breathed into life.

 He showed a few and relied on them to tell others, and those others to share with others. To assist them, He didn’t provide technology, doctorates or hidden barrels of gold. He “merely” poured on them His Spirit at Pentecost. 

So, there is something He wants people to do for each other. He wants us not only to tell, but to do, pouring out the spirit of our lives, releasing the joy and life at the heart of each person, no matter how singed and smudged. 

There’s life in the very tomb of Christ. We’re more accustomed to noticing the decay and corruption in life. We carry around with us the graves of our hope and innocence, our spirits entombed and our flesh enslaved.

The next person you meet who’s in a tomb or carrying tombstones, share with them the spring of life. (Even if that person is you.) If we’re not prepared to play the trumpet and sing Alleluia, if we haven’t brought the healing oil of gladness with us, we should think twice about being Christian. 

Which takes us back to those court benches. Sitting with the rest of us was a woman who’s there all day once a week. She volunteers with a Christian organization that ensures somebody is always around the court to offer help and hope to whoever needs it. I know because she came over and asked us if we needed any — and so gave it to us.  

Into the tombs, she carried the Giver of Life. Into the fire of human misery, she brought the fire of Pentecost. She showed where the real power is.

(Marrocco can be reached at marrocco7@sympatico.ca

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