Bro. Brian Poulin
I have three basic modes of operation. 1) I can plan; 2) I can cooperate with somebody else’s plan; 3) I can over-plan.
I can switch to a new plan when necessary, but too often I prefer to modify a pre-existing approach rather than to start fresh from scratch. To let go of what I know, trusting that life will catch me securely before I hit the ground? I’ve done it in extraordinary moments, but on the whole, let’s just say I would be a lousy trapeze artist—hardly one to “fly through the air with the greatest of ease.”
Thankfully I’m not in control—it would be too easy for me to let my good plans interfere with God’s great ones. I’m essentially a reformer at heart, trying to follow a God that is essentially revolutionary. If I had been a Hebrew slave in Egypt, I can imagine myself trying to help my neighbors and perhaps even agitate for better working conditions. To totally throw off the yoke of slavery and venture out into an unknown desert seeking an unknown destination? If I would go, I’d surely end up being one of the complainers that gave Moses such a headache.
It’s telling that when Jesus restores Lazarus to life, he has to tell the witnesses to unbind him from his burial wrappings. It would have been easier to imagine him as some undead monster rather than as the same beloved friend or relative truly alive again. Even for those who were grieving him, would it not have been easier in some ways to shove him back in the tomb? Remember that some of those who plotted to kill Jesus also sought to kill Lazarus.
When Jesus himself rose, the women did not visit the tomb to witness his Resurrection but rather to anoint his body. When it was missing, they would have gladly recovered it and placed it back in its resting place. They simply wanted to honor their dead friend in a good and beautiful way, according to their custom. Instead of permitting them to reverently observe death though, Jesus overthrew death itself. They got better than they could have hoped for, but in a way that not only upended their weekend plans but reset their priorities for the rest of their lives.
Holy Saturday is a time of great tension between despair and hope. In this twilight we don’t yet know whether we will be called on to cope with the reality before us, reforming and adjusting whatever we can, or if the world will change in an instant. On April 3, 1903, we Marist Brothers received definitive word that the French authorities would not exempt us from the new secularization laws. To remain in France would mean to embrace a transformed lifestyle and way of relating to society. The only way to maintain the familiar structures of religious life was to migrate and do so in unfamiliar lands. 1,000 brothers set up 30 new establishments on every habitable continent. Without this moment of apparent doom, we would not have become the thoroughly international congregation that we are today. The brothers who remained in France also had many experiences that helped us adapt to new realities throughout the next hundred years.
Many have placed great hope in the possibilities to transform our society in light of the inequalities and injustices highlighted over the past year. Maybe we’re too set in our ways to change. But maybe?
When we planned for a Messiah who was a warrior king, God planned for a suffering servant. When some of us planned a crucifixion and others of us planned loving burial rites, God instead planned Resurrection.
If God offers us a Plan B, will we take it? Or will we be too busy tinkering with our Plan A?
Change happens regardless of whether we desire it, and even the best outcomes are often preceded by painful processes. This month’s ear candy portrays the yearning for a promised future that must inevitably come, but after how much waiting and suffering? The brain food sheds light on a particular challenge for faith communities in our pandemic journey to whatever comes next.
Ear Candy: “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke
Brain Food: “Poor Parishes and Dioceses Face Precarious Post-Pandemic World” by Christopher White
Come back on the first Saturday of next month for a new post!