How do I know I had a good Lent this year? Jesus has His head back. Last year, no matter how much Gorilla Glue, I applied, I could not get Jesus back together. This year, it just took one swipe of an old Elmer’s glue stick and some faith, and, once again, He is resurrected outside his resin tomb, in one piece. I think sometimes we can try too hard with Lent, too. It is easy to put form over substance with Lenten penitence and sacrifice, leaving us completely wrung out by the time Easter comes. Where is our joy? It is no wonder the secular world begins to question the relevance of the holiday when we ourselves can lose sight of the goal. The week before Palm Sunday, I am usually ready to hit the Lenten showers, but this year, my week with you (and your toe) saw everything come together. I felt like I was having a triumphal entrance into the Easter season.
Every once in a while, we get a glimpse on earth of what the Kingdom will be like, and two weeks ago, I experienced that on several fronts: on retreat with other Catholic women, actively participating with the larger Catholic world, and finally, being a part of a family. As you beautifully wrote last week, we had a Kingdom experience at the Blessed is She Beloved retreat, made even more special by sharing time with some of our Pilgrimage sisters. Like you, I was outside my comfort zone, for a variety of reasons. Something strange happened, though. While normally I enjoy adoration as a solitary experience, I relaxed into the music and the babies, and let the presence of our Lord wash over me as part of the group.
Next stop in the Kingdom: Catholic Advocacy Day. Staying over in Austin, we joined scores of fellow-Catholics on the south steps of the Texas State Capitol. It was a rare mixture of beauty queens, bishops, and plaid. Worlds collided when we ran into the delightful Sr. Fatima, whom we met at the BIS retreat, ably leading her students through a mock debate and the ensuing rally. My former pastor, Bishop Mike Sis, addressed the crowd on pro-life issues, but it was the Bishop of El Paso who stole the show, leading the crowd in a chant of “Viva, Cristo Rey!”, while we all shouted back, “Viva!”. What a great Easter message – the joy was palpable.
I did not expect the highlight of my week to be in Enid, Oklahoma, but it was. Again, completely out of my comfort zone, my next Kingdom experience was attending your son’s flight school graduation. I was floored to be given the honor of pinning Jack’s wings on him. Talk about a grace moment, being given the gift of an honor you have absolutely no right to expect. I also had a quasi-religious experience in the T1 flight simulator. If anyone has trouble with letting go and letting God, they should try this. As you know, I am not the world’s most confident driver and, on a good, day I struggle just to back the car out of the driveway. Yet, I managed to not crash the plane. I am not sure if God had me there, but Jack did. Note to my co-pilot: I know I probably trashed the landing gear, but you don’t need landing gear in heaven, Jack.
While at the kids’ house, I had a circle of life moment. You had been struggling with funeral plans all week for your father-in-law and we discussed the many friends who have lost parents this year. At the same time, one of our pilgrim group lost his wife, and I received the message that a Gladney mom, exactly my age, passed away. When I glanced at the refrigerator in Jack’s house, it was covered by wedding announcements and invitations. The boys were talking about juggling honeymoons and leave, as you were trying to coordinate your family’s travel to the funeral. I remember the wedding and baby days of my 20s and 30s. Now, we are in the funeral and graduation days. While the passage of time was profoundly marked in that moment, it was not sad. I was struck by the rightness and the order of everything in this life. I was also reminded how lucky I am to still have time to get things right.
If only we had a flight simulator for our lives, which allowed us to soar over ourselves and make mistakes in a safe place. Sometimes we need a new perspective to see the Kingdom. Instead of being tired of Lent, I was re-charged for the last few days. Now that Easter has come, I am grateful to have a lot to celebrate. As we have laid our concerns at the foot of the Cross this season, I am ready to offer my joys to Jesus’ empty tomb. What better reason to shout “Viva, Cristo Rey!”?
Alleluia! He is risen, indeed.