Hope When All We See Is Darkness

Often what we think of as a sealed tomb, is actually in invitation to new life.

Over the past several weeks of Lent, we have been more attuned to the connection of our faith and the whole body of Christ as we observed fasting, prayer, and increased generosity to the poor. The conclusion of Lent, Holy Week is traditionally spent immersing ourselves in the mystery of the painful crucifixion and death of the man we profess to believe is the Son of God. I emphasize the word mystery, because it still remains difficult to understand. 

As this week begins, we witness the accidental burning of an iconic Cathedral which brings our hearts and minds squarely back to the importance of our faith in Jesus despite the mystery and numerous unanswered questions. The meaning inside of what is normally a week of introspection and self-examination, is accentuated by the events of this past month. If you are facing a new normal that is not quite what you expected, you know what I mean. We have a heightened awareness of the fragility and value of life because of our own losses and the pain we experience when those we love suffer.

Vineyard in Spain along the Camino.

Vineyard in Spain along the Camino.

And so we tenderly hold many questions about the meaning of life, the purpose of suffering and what happens after we die whether we are courageous enough to give voice to our longing for answers or not. 

My new daily companion, heartache, and I went to Mass to celebrate Palm Sunday. Every crucifix in the church was shrouded by a bright red cloth. At the procession, an altar boy carried a crucifix on a pole, but you could not see Jesus. Over the altar, on the altar— everywhere you expect to see Jesus, He was veiled. 

It was so profoundly heartbreaking. The emptiness and silence. The darkness and vacancy. The finality and seeming futility of it all. 

I wept tears for those who were all cried out. I cried for those who can only see the darkness of the tomb right now. So many people I love who are in pain.

My heart called out to God for consolation, for a deeper understanding of Him, for healing, and for knowledge of His merciful love. 

When we look at the stone in front of the tomb and imagine what is inside, our limited experience tells us that it is something to fear. When we see the flames climbing above our beloved rose windows, we are scared for our future. What had been solid and something we could count on, is no longer dependable.

Gazing on the tomb, seeing an immovable stone, we know we are powerless to move it which increases our feeling of helplessness. As grape vines in winter appear withered and unable to produce new leaves and fruit we might think all hope is lost. Observing from a distance, you are unable to tell the contents of the tomb or the condition of the vine.

How often do we only see the darkness of a given situation? The pain? The unnecessary suffering? From where we stand, we can’t see a resolution that makes sense short of a miracle.  We can be tempted to walk away and look elsewhere for answers. We might think we need to mask or tamp down our pain by escaping into Netfix, Instagram, comfort food or comfort wine. We don’t know what to do with all the unfamiliar feelings.

In the readings for the Mass, I travelled to the Mount of Olives and the foot of the Cross. Pain. A detached ear. Denial. It was all there, and I wanted to run away as the congregation said, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.”

As the Mass moved on to the consecration of the Eucharist, my mind went to the Last Supper and I remembered Jesus’ parting gift— His body and blood. 

Jesus did not leave us powerless and alone. The enormity and generosity of His sacrifice overwhelmed me and I was moved to tears of gratitude and filled with His peace.  

I am grateful we know the rest of Jesus’ story: the stone rolled away to reveal a transformed life, the vine sprouts sweet grapes and the Cathedral rebuilt. THERE IS HOPE. While there are still no definitive answers to the hard questions, join me and listen for the Lord in stillness and silence. Find comfort in community. Trust in His compassionate love. He will never leave you, He is here, keep looking for Him. 

Join me in prayer that the tragic fire in Paris will enkindle a flame in the hearts of all people around the world who may be questioning their faith or belief in a loving and merciful God.

Psalm 116 caught my heart this morning: 

Psalm 116.png

This post has been edited after the fire at Notre Dame, Paris.