All is grace and all is mercy
Well that is Lent almost over. We are in Holy Week. Perhaps our penances have been successful in preparing us to celebrate the feast; perhaps they have just been Lenten penances that have wandered on through Lent following their own course without really leading us anywhere in particular. Recently I’ve found my preparations for Easer usurped by Funerals. They have taken over this last period of Lent and have brought something of the mystery of evil, and of suffering and death closer. They are making me reflect on Easter from a slightly different angle this year for some reason. It’s not the first time I’ve had a number of funerals this late in Lent, so perhaps it has got more to do with me than them.
The funerals have all been different: one an elderly parishioner who was a good man, who walked humbly with God serving the parish in various ways, and living uprightly and joyfully, died from an illness. Another funeral was of a person who probably had only been in Church for funerals and who died suddenly, but his family wanted him buried from the Church because he still kind of believed. A third funeral was of a young girl just out of her teens, with a whole life before her, but illness had other ideas. Then another funeral for someone whose life was only half way through, then they died suddenly. It wasn’t a happy life. In the face of these different lives lived with various levels of fidelity to my idea of Church and faith, its easy to be judgmental – well it is for me. It’s easy to get annoyed at demands and expectations; it’s easy to get surprised as well. Is it the time to remind people about the teaching of the Church on going to Mass and to speak about purgatory and hell and the last thing? Is it the time to offer hope and mercy and not speak of faithfulness? I can’t help these thoughts springing up in my mind, perhaps because I’m more like the elder son in the story that Christ told about the two sons, perhaps because as we get closer to the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday and the gift of the Eucharist, as we watch with Christ at the Altar of repose and enter into the long Good Friday and the stillness and emptiness of Holy Saturday, I wonder at the mystery of this God of ours who did something that just didn’t make sense to anyone. And when I see the suffering of death, in any and all of the families – for every death is tragic – it doesn’t make sense either. It’s almost as if there is nothing but chaos in our life and in our death, and in the death of Christ too. And there is nothing that makes sense of it, nothing to hold onto to give stability to a world that seems to have gone mad.
I suppose it was that way for Our Lady and the disciples too, when they had to deal with Christ’s death. And all we can do is wait and trust and throw ourselves into the arms of God’s mercy. Because whether we are saint or sinner, whether we are good thief or bad, whether we believe or don’t, death is the end for us. We cannot save ourselves from it; we cannot escape it or avoid it. We can blame God all we like for suffering and death, we can beat our own breasts and acknowledge our guilt for our sin and the sin of the whole world, but in the end we can do nothing about anything. All is grace and all is mercy. The cross shows us that, but we still have to wait for the resurrection to feel it.