As I read, a chill suddenly runs down my spine. The few sentences that I’ve just pored over hit a little too close to home. Without warning, the most difficult memories from my life resurface. I have to set aside my reading for a minute and take a deep breath before the tears flow too freely. The hero I’ve come to love through this story approaches the end of his life. Though he maintains a positive and tough exterior, he realizes that certain demise awaits him. He seems to be tying up loose ends with those around him in an attempt to leave them with the best of his wit, wisdom, advice and love. Though his tone is hopeful, my hero suffers within. Misgivings regarding the immediate future shake his faith, and his family and friends fail to sense this. Though some begin to notice the change in his demeanor, the activities of the moment distract them from their concern. I fear that my hero’s people are going to be taken by surprise as the plot unfolds.
I’m not a stranger to tragedy in my life. I’ve survived more adversity than many, though not nearly as much as most. Somehow, walking through these final pages with my hero brings back to mind my own life’s trials and tribulations. I suppose this is so because I identify with the hero in this particular story on many levels. We seem to share the same approach to the things that are most important to us. He loves his family just as I love my own. He has special devotion to his parents who taught him to love and to believe with great passion. Their most poignant lessons came through example rather than words which is also the way my parents taught me best. My hero feels at home in his faith because his parents introduced him to their temple when he was just a baby. My parents did the same when they carried me down the block to church on the day of my baptism. My hero lost his father early on, but still managed to grow into a devoted son who made his mother proud. Though my dad’s untimely death caused him to miss most of my childhood, my mom acknowledged a thing or two that made her proud of me over the years. Throughout this story, when those around him face difficulties, this hero who seems more like a friend to me now consistently steps up to help. Though I often fail, I really do try to do the same.
I’m most struck by my hero friend’s persistence in the face of the worst this life has to offer. Though he may withdraw for a bit to regroup and to replenish his soul, he never abandons his mission. Indeed, my hero returns every time more convinced than ever that he’s on the right road. I had to set down my book a few minutes ago because of something my hero said. He’d just left a holiday dinner with those closest to him. He’d bared his soul regarding how he feels about them and he offered a final gesture of his love and devotion to each one. As he rose from their dinner table, my hero wondered if any of his friends had grasped his meaning. With a heavy heart, he took them out to enjoy the beautiful night. While he left them to rest in the greenery, my hero knelt in an isolated patch to consider what the next several hours will bring. He has always turned to his dad on such occasions and this night is no exception.
“Dad,” he prayed, “All things are possible with you. Take this cup away from me…” He’s so frightened that he sweats blood. No human can survive what lies ahead, and this hero to us all questions his ability to endure it. Still, he considers his father once again and adds, “…but not what I will, but what you will.” When I read this, I simply had to set aside the Passion (Matthew 26:14-27:66) for a few minutes. As the calamities from my own life flooded my mind, Jesus’ words filled my heart with understanding. Finally, I realized the reason I’ve survived these things. In each circumstance, I echoed Jesus’ words with my own requests to be relieved of my suffering. Nonetheless, in each circumstance I also followed Jesus’ lead with confidence that God would get me through whatever lay ahead.
This Palm Sunday, we listen to Jesus’ story. We acknowledge all that Jesus said and did during his life among us. In Jesus’ life, we find the strength to endure. In his passion and death, we find the hope that urges us on. Jesus never said our existence on this earth would be easy, but Jesus promised often that we would never be alone in our efforts. Today and throughout this Holy Week, we celebrate this hero who has shown us the way to live with courage, to die with hope and to rise with absolute certainty that Easter awaits us all.
©2012 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved