Sunday, April 24, 2016

Too much triumph?

Last week I was delighted and blessed to be once again at On Fire - an annual conference for charismatic catholics which has become a hugely important sources of refreshment and renewal for me over the past 5 years. I have written before here  and here about why it matters so much to me and really I don't have anything to add. 
It's a community in which I regularly encounter God, and though this year there was alot of hard stuff of my own to process (much still on-going) the experience of the week was most definitely one of resurrection.
So, feeling myself positively fizzing with life and joy and hope after some rather wonderful intervention by the Holy Spirit, I posted some pictures on Facebook from the procession of the Blessed Sacrament after our final Mass, together with a caption drawn from a worship song that has resounded in my head pretty well non-stop since Morning Prayer on that last morning  (and is still there even in the exhaustion at the end of a long long Sunday)
"Death is dead. Love has won. Christ has conquered".

It was an expression of my own experience at that point.

But...a friend and priest whom I love dearly questioned whether those words were too glib, too much a reflection of the "Death is nothing at all" school of popular theology that seeks to dash straight from Palm Sunday to Easter Day without any engagement with the darkness that is a huge reality for so many people.
That gave me pause - and I've been reflecting since on whether sharing joy in the face of pain is heartless and unhelpful, a refusal to take that pain seriously - or somehow equivalent to throwing a rope-ladder down to enable those who are struggling to reach a place of safety.

I came straight to On Fire from celebrating Communion with a friend who is facing a very discouraging diagnosis and some hugely difficult treatment. Another beloved friend was absent from the conference as his father-in-law was close to death, and during the week I had news of yet another friend's cancer - so the thought that in voicing my own feelings of celebration I might be trampling on, or seeming to over-ride their experience of struggle and darkness was challenging, to say the least. 

At the splendid "Taking Funerals Seriously" conference last year, there was discussion about whether in time to come our unique selling point as Church might be that we were prepared to admit that death is real and painful and parting utterly soul-searing...So much of our culture seems intent on denying that - on asserting again and again, in the face of all the evidence, that "death is nothing at all". But the business of priesthood is so often to stand in the middle of the mess and pain and sadness of life - and yes, to weep with those who weep, but also to suggest, gently but confidently, that despair is not the only possible response. Because, after a long hard winter, I needed a spring-time of the spirit, a reminder that God DOES make all things new, and that actually, resurrection happens...and if that is my experience, I'm pretty sure others need those same reassurances.

No - I won't always feel that with the same overwhelming joy and conviction that currently floods my soul - but that doesn't mean that it's not my responsibility to hold onto the light of faith, and to proclaim the resurrection in ways that comfort and encourage - which may not involve words at all, but maybe simply being there and loving as best I can...

But I would go to the stake rather than hold back the words "Love has won". To say that in as many ways as I humanly can is surely what I'm called to do...Isn't it? 

1 comment:

James said...

If it helps...

I'm terrified of dying...but I am not afraid of death.

If you can persuade people to see the difference, it might resolve your dilemma.