"Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord."
The Gospel According to John, Easter 2013
This past year has for me seen many passings and dyings in my life. I have bid farewell to one community. I left a job. I left one home for another and had to leave it also. I've been on the move, having four residences since June and will be taking on a fifth in two weeks, and will move again and then, God willing, I will again settle down. I have lived under many shadows and faced many challenges. This past year I was again confronted by my being a childhood survivor of sex abuse.
This year has been decidedly different from years past. Five years ago my friend and priest encouraged me to return to the practice of the Daily Office and by implication to live an intentional life, which for me was to again seek Christ as the center of my life. This intention served me well and held me together when I lost my job in the Crash of 2007. I poured the time not spent job hunting into my spiritual health and growth. Eventually my intentionality led me to live in a vowed community. Two years ago I took vows. Last year, I realized my concept of spirituality was at odds with that community. Others came to the same realization in their separate ways which we realized when we shared with each other that we would not be renewing vows in that order. We realized we were all on the same page, or rather in the same book filled with unique pages being composed by different authors. So we formed a new community, The Society of Jesus Compassionate. We died. We were resurrected. We died and were resurrected joyfully!
My Brothers have been with me in the difficulty of the past year, helping me up when I broke down under the renewed weight of guilt and shame from my childhood abuse and how it had dominated my life, all of it, by having created an inner culture of deception and secrets. I was living as a shadow in the shadow lands. I also had to come to terms with having been abused by the church as a young adult. Though these were similar, they were not directly related, but both of these disasters were bound by secrecy, and around which my whole life had been governed by deception. And there were the addictions which helped to smother the truth from myself. I’ve been clean thirty plus years and sober since 1995, but I had not come to healing until this year. Yes, I’ve been in therapy of some sort for 23 years now. And it was good, and is good. It gave me a healthy way to cope with and examine the aspects of my persona which were doing me harm, but it was not and is not healing. Healing comes from another source. Therapy helped and continues to help me prepare fertile ground for the seeds of healing, it breaks the top soil. It some ways, the breaking of that top soil, was breaking away from what was done to me, and by whom, to begin understanding how I am being affected by it in my life. and how I can begin to effect my life from it.
Healing comes from another source. Healing comes from God. Healing comes from the immortal witness of Jesus Christ. Healing comes first to me as a light which first reveals the shadows and then begins to dispel them. Today, healing comes from beyond the grave. This Easter is the first day of healing from a risen Jesus who for a little while made himself lower than angels to live, suffer, die and then rise again on the third day, this day, so that we may know for ourselves, by his example, how to deal with the pain and death which comes with being alive. God, in God’s infinite love for creation and for us, gave his Son Jesus to be absolutely free to live and die as he chooses. God trusted Jesus and Jesus trusted God to manifest absolute love in the world as tangible and real. Jesus chose love, again and again, and in doing so exercised vulnerability. Jesus chose compassion, and compassion compelled him beyond his suffering to fill the needs of the world, to heal the sick, invite the outcasts, and to feed them all. There are seasons and cycles of life, some compressed, some which extend through a life time. Birth, life, death, resurrection; all of these make up the cycle of life. Yes, though we’re not taught to see this, resurrection is a part of the Cycle of Life? Don’t think so? Look around, all of nature proclaims it, life always wins! Death gives way to life, life give ways to death, and death gives way again to life. Life changes forms, but life persists. Our very presence now announces, from countless generations which have come before us, “Life always wins!”
Our lives change. Whether we like it or not, we do ride tides and currents beyond our control. And we die. Many times over we pass through veils of living and dying and the sooner one accepts that fact, the easier the living becomes. We fall, fail; suffer disappointments, and great sorrows of suffering, of heartbreak. We all too suffer the abuse of others, physical and emotional. We all experience tremendous loss when we lose someone in our lives, from changes and disagreements, from distance, and from death. Yet, we who find ourselves in Christ, in the Body of Christ can be resurrected, reborn into new being, a new creation.
How? It is something we can’t do alone as secluded in ourselves. We need help, help born of God’s compassion, found in Jesus, and found in each other. There are those who have walked this path, who have allowed themselves to be vulnerable to their own suffering, with which they can compassionately avail themselves to the suffering of others. There are people in my life who have helped me in my healing, who have given me the holy space between us, formed in safety and trust. My family, friends, my counselor, my Brothers, my priests and my confessor, all companions, have at different times revealed the Risen Lord in their love for me and their earnest desire for my healing, in their allowing me to be vulnerable to the dying in me, and to the life in me to come. From them, like Mary Magdalene, I have heard the call away from the tomb, I have seen the Lord.
The story continues. Life continues. Parts of my persona die and new aspects of my persona grow into fullness, where before there was before decay and illness. We can all experience the joy of a new life. These are gifts from God, to live and suffer, in our dying to the past and its anger, its fear and resentful delusions, and live again into a new life, like Jesus, always vulnerable to loving and healing, growing in us God’s gift of compassion, for ourselves and each other and for the community that is the world. Resurrection and compassion comes from knowing suffering, intimately, without delusion or deception. They come from embracing life’s sufferings for what they are as real, but not as the end, as the stopping place. Sufferings, and the deaths they yield to, are but transitory places, as one part of the seasons of living which we can all move through, death, healing, love and joy, all pointing to resurrection.
God gives us the way to a life lived in full freedom, by the liberation of our hearts and minds to the healing which comes from the truth of ourselves as vulnerable creatures born to live and die and live again. We celebrate it every year and should celebrate it every day. Celebrate the pain which comes as the herald of new healing, found in God, and found in Jesus. Let the new fire of Easter be kindled in your hearts and let its light shine into the recesses of your hearts, minds and the whole persona of your life. Today, from beyond the shadows of our understanding, is the joy of our resurrection, found in the light and Resurrection of our Christ Jesus, our Lord of compassion. I have seen the Lord, and he is risen!