As I was living the sacred days of the Paschal Triduum this year, I have been thinking of how overwhelmed people are feeling these days. It seems as if we have been brought to the edge: as a country, as a Church, and even the burning of Notre-Dame de Paris and the bombings in Sri Lanka have been as a kick in the gut.
Though we prefer to meditate on Jesus as the kind and gentle Shepherd, the merciful Savior, the consoling Master, Jesus actually brought his disciples into a state of “overwhelm” a number of times.
Consider the storm on the lake. Jesus told the apostles to go to the other side of the lake. A sudden storm threatened to capsize the boat. Spotting Jesus walking on the water they cried out in fear. Peter, ever the courageous one, demanded to walk across the water to him. Looking down at the waves that swirled at his feet, he began to sink, crying out, “Lord, save me.” Or consider when Jesus was preaching into the evening and the apostles urged him to let the people go into the village to find something to eat. “No. You give them something to eat.” And then he offered them no instructions. “How are we going to do that?” was the immediate response of the befuddled twelve. There are any number of times when Jesus brought his apostles into “overwhelm” mode.
But Holy Thursday was a dramatic shift. With the shouts of joy and praise still in the disciples’ ears and hearts, the mood turned somber as the darkness fell. To the men who still wondered who was first, who was better, and if they were going to get something from an expected victory of Jesus over the Romans, their Lord and Master was now about to teach them truly what his life as Emmanuel was really about.
So the Paschal Triduum is first about what is real, what is human. It is about the darkness and overwhelm that we all experience, including Jesus in these final days of agony and death. It is about facing the power of the Evil One and overcoming it. It is about letting Jesus teach us.
The Paschal Triduum surprises us. Jesus bent to wash the apostles’ feet at the Last Supper. The Master’s love is shown in serving and we too must do the same.
The Paschal Triduum helps us embrace our weakness. Peter boasts that he would never deny the Lord only to confront his absolute weakness before a servant girl who identified him as one of Jesus’ followers. The apostles slept as their Master sweat blood in the Garden of Olives and fled as he was betrayed by one of their number.
We think the love we have of our own creation for God and others is enough, only to discover it is insufficient before mystery of the passion of the Lord.
The Paschal Triduum breaks open our hearts. As Mary stood contemplating the greatest sorrow the world has known, cradling her dead Son in her arms, she still whispered her Fiat. In whatever sorrow weighs upon us, we find our way through only when we find the courage to whisper this Marian yes.
The Paschal Triduum invites us to look deep within ourselves with an honest gaze. Like Peter we may have feelings of guilt or shame or sadness. Like Peter we are overwhelmed by the Master who wants to know only one thing: Do you love me?
Eastertide is about a new way of seeing. About being able to recognize our Lord and Master. He drew his apostles into the overwhelming experience of his passion and death. They fled. They denied. They walked away. And we do the same when we are brought to those moments of unchosen suffering that lead us to the brink of what we think we can take.
But Good Shepherd that he is, he doesn’t let us run far. He understands that we can’t take much and that our hearts waver and melt before sorrow and pain.
Jesus caught up to the two disciples walking home to Emmaus, walking alongside them, letting them express their sadness, their disappointment, their point of view about what had happened in Jerusalem, and tenderly let them admit their expectations still so far off the mark of what Jesus’ life and death and resurrection were all about.
He gently explained to them how they could find his story written in the scriptures which prophesied all that had happened to him. He gave them the chance to let him go or invite him in. He pretended that he was going further, and the disciples invited him to stay. And that night, in the breaking of the bread, their eyes were opened. They could truly see him, present with them in their sorrow and weakness. Yes, the Good Shepherd that he promised to be, he truly was to them and to us.
Easter tells us that even when we run, we will be followed. We won’t get far before Jesus “catches up with us.” Our moments of overwhelm and comfort, or darkness and light, of death and resurrection are not consecutive realities.
These mysteries in Christ coinhere, interpenetrate, are one thing. Though our triumphs will fall and our certainty will fail, it is ultimately the everlasting hand of the Almighty upon us that overwhelms us with Love.
It is this Love that makes our crosses and crucifixions, our death and despair also our resurrection and our life.
So as we go forth into the 50-day Easter season, let us immerse ourselves in Easter living as did the first disciples of Jesus:
Every believer was faithfully devoted to following the teachings of the apostles. Their hearts were mutually linked to one another, sharing communion and coming together regularly for prayer. A deep sense of holy awe swept over everyone, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. All the believers were in fellowship as one body, and they shared with one another whatever they had. Out of generosity they even sold their assets to distribute the proceeds to those who were in need among them. Daily they met together in the temple courts and in one another’s homes to celebrate communion. They shared meals together with joyful hearts and tender humility. They were continually filled with praises to God, enjoying the favor of all the people. And daily the Lord kept adding to their number those who were coming to life (Acts 2:42-47; PT).
by Sr Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP