Here we are, again, Holy Saturday.
A lot has happened to us since we gathered last Easter, waiting in hope for Christ’s resurrection to come into our hearts and lives. And for me, this year is very different. I feel drawn to remain longer at the Cross and allow what it reveals to touch me. I want to bring to it some powerful experiences of these past months before entering into the new life and grace that Easter dawns.
Each and every Easter offers this ‘in-between’ or liminal space on Holy Saturday. A space that allows us to wait with all that Good Friday brings before welcoming the joy of Easter Sunday. And there is so much, this year, that calls us to wait and pray, allowing a deeper conversion that can come with such waiting.
Many people in the world found COVID-19 a long and painful experience. Across most nations it brought much suffering, loneliness and death. I want to stand at the Cross and remember. This pandemic is not over, yet.
I want to stand with those who have cared for the sick, sometimes themselves getting infected and dying. I want to stand with those who are still suffering. For COVID brought with it much fear and anxiety. It invited the creation of borders and forced separation within and between families and nations. More recently we have been witnessing the privilege of those in the world who now have greater access to vaccines than others.
In recent weeks we in Australia have been exposed to another ‘infection’, one we have carried far longer than this pandemic. We have heard the cry of women and their anger against male violence. Not just here in one place or occasionally there in another but deeply embedded in our culture and institutions. I want to stand with them and hear their cry this Good Friday.
Part of me always wants to move on, to avoid, to walk away from the Cross with all its pain, mess and human weakness. I want Good Friday to be quickly gone. But not this year. This year a part of me cannot move on quickly. I am drawn to wait at the Cross and with those who suffer.
I imagine what it was like that first time. I identify with the fragility of the male disciples. Many strong and courageous words and promises we had uttered. But we were so weak when our commitments were tested. The disciple John was there but no other male disciple. We were afraid, ashamed and weak. That is how we men were faring with all the chaos and violence of that first Good Friday.
In my prayerful imagination I remember Mary and the group of women standing at the Cross. I confess I have often been graced when standing with Mary. Her very presence encourages me, as I am sure it did for those other women who stood with her at Calvary. She knows my past and my relationship with her Son. She encourages me to remember that friendship and not ever forget the companionship He has always offered me. Even in my weakness and a deeply ingrained cultural acceptance of violence against women.
The women at the Cross have walked a hard and demanding journey with Jesus. They served, supported and sacrificed much to follow him. They were drawn into his friendship and they were not afraid to allow their presence to speak of their love for him and their desire to accompany him. Whatever the risk and the cost.
I am not surprised that the first to announce that Easter Rising was not one of the male disciples, but the women. It was they who remained close to the heart and suffering of Jesus. They did not walk away. They witnessed his Resurrection because their conversion of faith was open to who Jesus was and could be for them.
Easter Sunday promises to come and, again, it will come for us this year. But not determined by any ‘normal’ Easters of past years and what I might hope to celebrate simply once again. This one is very different. It calls out for new life and hope. But it cannot do so by walking away from what we have seen, felt and heard this past year and what draws each one of us to remain with Jesus on His Cross and wait. Just stop, listen and wait.
I want women to keep speaking to me their word of his Resurrection. I want to know more of their faith and how their hope and courage can heal my blindness. They invite me and the Church into something new, arising out of that invitation by Jesus to be his close companion, even in suffering and death. I believe we can only become a community of his disciples with their leadership, recognising their gifts arising out of fidelity, courage and faith.
There is an Easter Rising in COVID and with the women who surround us. Both invite a conversion into what and with whom we wish to become. For it is not only COVID that has led us to the pain and promise of Easter this year. Many courageous women have also.
Fr Brian McCoy SJ