Last year, members of Christ Church in Rochester, NY, wrote Lenten meditations and posted them on their Website, and this one — from Lucy Alonzo, an Episcopal deacon — is so very fitting for this final day before Easter.
And the journal page at the bottom? Well, it couldn’t be more beautiful or more perfect for today…
The Holy Saturday readings: Job 14:1-14 or Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24, 1 Peter 4:1-8, John 19:38-42
What do you do when your world falls apart? On Holy Saturday, the disciples must have been in a state of shock. Their beloved teacher who had healed so many, their Messiah, who had been greeted with palms as the Son of David on his entry into Jerusalem less than a week earlier, had been executed as a criminal! What should they do now? And what should we do when coping with disasters like the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, or any other time we feel that our world has crumbled? The readings for today show us some possible responses.
Job was a pious and upright man, but sudden calamities had killed all his children, stripped him completely of his considerable wealth, and ruined his health. In today’s reading he complains to God - an understandable response, though not particularly helpful except as a vent for his emotions.
In the Gospel reading, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus care for the body of Jesus, wrapping it with costly spices and placing it Joseph’s own new tomb. Their choice was to do what they could to help, in the midst of their own sorrow - an appropriate choice for followers of the One who had commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Peter’s letter agrees with this approach, reminding us, “Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.”
For all of us who wish to follow Jesus, I think that an extremely important example is the choice He made in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Not my will but yours be done.” This is difficult to say in the midst of a disaster, but in my experience it is a very helpful way to pray. Luke’s Gospel says that after Jesus prayed this way in the garden, “an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength” (Luke 22:43). An example I like is a little child crying about a broken toy while holding onto it with all his might; his father can fix it for him only when he is willing to hand it over to him. It takes faith to entrust our problems to our Heavenly Father, but it does make it much more possible for Him to help us.
I learned something about this as a freshman in college. I had a huge crush on a very nice boy, a friend of my cousin, and had been hoping he would write to me. But instead he sent me an invitation to his engagement party, and all my castles in the air came crashing down. (Years later, he became a state governor, and I realized that I could never have been the political hostess he needed!) Anyhow I went to the chapel and part of my prayer was approximately, “Lord, obviously you did not want what I wanted, but I’m sure you have a better plan for me, so please take charge of my life and help me to do what you want.” Well, God answered my prayer by touching me with his love; I cannot really describe it, but for weeks afterwards I was riding my bike around campus singing the Gloria. Of course surrendering our will to God is an ongoing process, but I believe each step along that path brings help when we need it most.
The reading from Lamentations is the one that I find most helpful for desperate situations. Jeremiah had been persecuted for prophesying to Jerusalem about the approaching disaster; when the city was destroyed it would be understandable if he had felt it served them right. Instead he wrote in Lamentations, “My eyes flow with rivers of tears because of the destruction of my people.” However he also wrote, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”
So when our world seems to have fallen apart, let us do what we can to be helpful and loving, ask our Lord to take charge of the whole situation and say with Jeremiah, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases.”
The resurrection is coming!
Thanks be to God.
I live in upstate New York with my hubby of oh-so-many years. Our family includes our daughter and son-in-law, and two of the sweetest granddaughters ever!