Being a Christian means knowing the worst things aren’t the last things.
I’m paraphrasing here. I read this, or something like it, recently in passing and cannot, for the life of me, remember what brilliant religious figure said it. Even an internet search rendered no results. So my apology goes into the cosmos for not crediting it appropriately.
That said, I love what it says about who we are and what we believe.
Easter is coming; of this we are certain. But we also know we must walk through the hell of Holy Week first.
We will gather around the table at the Last Supper as Jesus gifts us the sacrament of Eucharist. All the while, we know those around the table will betray him. We allow him to kneel at our feet to wash and restore us, knowing we will not offer the same as his body comes off of the cross.
On Good Friday, we will shout “crucify him” as part of the crowd, hungry for anyone but us to bear the blame for our failings. We will mourn at the cross. We will remember the excruciating pain and suffering Jesus of Nazareth suffered out of his limitless and profound love for us.
We will sit on Holy Saturday in the most deafening and loneliest of silences, holding vigil near Jesus as he has been entirely abandoned by all. Outside the doors of the church, families will be gathering for celebrations, egg hunts, and too much chocolate. Inside, we will be still and quiet in the throes of grief. The revelry outside will make the pain worse; will intensify our loneliness because the rest of the world seems to happy while we are so heartbroken.
I welcome this regular rhythm of Holy Week because of the promise it holds that the worst things are not the last things.
We will all experience grief. We will all experience betrayal. We all will be lonely and abandoned. We all will live through excruciating pain and heartbreak. But none of it will have the last word.
Not even death.
Our faith allows us to face the worst of life and of death with the knowledge that none of it will defeat us. We can face the pain because of the hope in the promise that eventually “All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” The great Julian of Norwich, church mystic and writer from the late 14th to early 15th century gave us that one. In her deep wisdom, she gifted us a mantra that, when repeated, has the ability to calm our spirit and ground us in the midst of the most tumultuous of life’s seas.
We remain uncertain and unsure about death because of our humanity. Our faith allows us to let go of the fear, though, because even death is not the last thing.
Easter morning will arrive as regularly as the rising sun. The last thing always will be the light breaking through the darkness. The last thing will always be love and mercy and charity and unity with God.
As we prepare ourselves to walk Christ’s final journey as his companions during Holy Week, may we be strengthened not to look away or abandoned the path before us. May we make our refrain, “because we are Christians, the worst things are not the last things,” so that we may continue with steadfast faith as witnesses to the end.