By FATHER EUGENE BARRETTE, MS, Commentary | Published March 22, 2007
Don’t be surprised if there is no Easter this year.
The very idea scares me, but it’s not farfetched. In our world there are millions who have not had and will not have an Easter experience—that experience of journeying through a dying that leads us into new life, that experience of “yes” triumphing over “no” in life.
But Easter does not happen if we keep running away from, denying, blocking out, avoiding Good Friday. We may speak fervently about the “Paschal Mystery” that we celebrate in this season. But that Paschal Mystery, Jesus’ journey into and through death to new life, his passage from Good Friday to Easter, is a paradigm to be found in our own lives—over and over again—a gift held out to us by God.
“Dying” takes many shapes and forms in our lives: a relationship that collapses, the death of a loved one, a health crisis, a nervous breakdown or major bouts of depression, loss of a career, hopes and dreams shattered, a spiritual desert.
There is a form of dying within each of these experiences. But there is held the hope of new life coming from these dyings. It’s almost a cliché, but there is the faith and hope that when one door closes, the Lord opens others. That is the truth of the rhythm of the Paschal Mystery: Jesus’ own journey of Good Friday leading into Easter, being lived out over and over again in our own lives. Do we actually believe, trust, grasp and hold on to that reality in the dark days that seem able to crush us?
Sadly, we are deprived of the new life experience when we back off of Good Friday. We deprive ourselves of this when we buy into the mindset of our culture. Our society goes to any length to deny, avoid and anesthetize life’s pains, sorrows and dyings. We surround ourselves with choices of “convenience,” choices that exempt us from living with the disruptive consequences of our actions. We’ll do anything to find a detour around Golgotha. And all too often such choices are repeated, and we spend our lives walking in ever-defeating circles. Thus we never enter into the Good Fridays facing us, and therefore never arrive at the Easters that can and will give us new life beginnings and directions. Our lives become spirals of “same old, same old,” and “alleluia” is shrugged off with a lame “whatever.” The Lord probably wearily shakes His head and wants to say, “Roll the stone back in place. These people don’t want to come out of their tomb-lives.”
We in the pro-life ministry, especially when focusing on the struggle to save the pre-born, are called to be, first and foremost, aware of the Good Fridays that many people face when faced with an unexpected pregnancy:
– The condemning eyes or verbal reproaches from parents, family, friends, “religious” people. It is Good Friday.
– The fear and pain of wondering if parents still love you, the distance of some family, friends. It is Good Friday.
– The turmoil, the stumbling, the not knowing what this is going to mean to one’s future. It is Good Friday.
– The mixed feelings—to love and welcome or hate and wish this new life be gone. It is Good Friday.
– The panicky feelings that everything is shattering, no future, no hope—it’s dark, scary, a desolation, bleak landscape of despair. It is Good Friday.
– The whisperings deep in the pit of self, or from family, friends, counselors, “Just get rid of the problem. An abortion is not such a big deal today. Who will know? Just wash your hands of all of this and get on with your life.” Words echoing those of the Prince of Lies. It is Good Friday.
The great temptation is to walk away from that Good Friday, at any cost. It takes eyes of faith and Spirit-given courage to face such a Good Friday and walk into it. An unexpected and unwanted pregnancy can be an invitation to one’s own Stations of the Cross.
That is where we in the pro-life ministry are called to accompany, to companion, those faced with such a Good Friday. Faith-based strength and hope-filled support are needed to reach Easter.
– The Easter of affirming that this new life has been known before being knit in the mother’s womb, called by name by God, who is the One who gives this life. Easter happens when a resounding “yes” has been given to this life.
– The Easter of believing that this person has a unique song to sing, words to speak, work to accomplish, love to give, mission to fulfill, a piece to place in God’s mosaic of the history of life. Easter happens when a resounding “yes” has been given to this life.
– The Easter of seeing a couple so desirous of a child and yet unable to have one, and then receiving the gift of this child born to this mother unable to really care for her child.
Easter happens when a resounding “yes” has been given to this life.
– The Easter of this new mother, choosing and able to keep the child and discovering a capacity to love and level of selflessness she never knew she had. Easter happens when a resounding “yes” has been given to this life.
– The Easter of other people’s hearts awakened by this example of the choice for life made in the midst of Good Friday. Easter happens when a resounding “yes” has been given to this life.
The pro-life ministry itself must be aware of our own experience of the Paschal Mystery. We are called to our Good Friday over and over again when our ministry is ignored, looked upon with disdain, mocked, isolated, not supported by those whom we feel should be more supportive, when we are discouraged, and at times seemingly defeated.
But if we walk away, stop our work in this ministry, we also are depriving ourselves of the Easter experience. We will not experience the life-affirming “yes” or defeat the death-dealing “no” as the final word to life.
In Easter is our life; through Good Friday is our journey. We do not walk it alone.
We are accompanied by the millions of voices silenced before they could speak their words of life.
In this Culture of Death they find voice in us. Praise them.
Let us always speak and act our resounding “yes” to life.
And with that, Easter happens!
Father Gene Barrette, MS, is a parochial vicar at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Smyrna. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.