April 17 Easter Monday

Monday  April 17
“Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods”

When I was a child, on what Catholics call “Holy Saturday,”  the big deal was that the tight rules of Lent unwound themselves and you could eat candy again.    In 1927, Cecil B DeMille released his silent-film blockbuster “The King of Kings.”  Wikipedia describes DeMille’s treatment of Easter as follows:  “On the third day, he rises from the dead as promised. To emphasize the importance of the resurrection, this scene from an otherwise black and white film is shot in color. Jesus goes to the Apostles and tells them to spread his message to the world. He tells them ‘I am with you always” as the scene shifts to a modern city to show that Jesus still watches over his followers.”   Color film, a dazzling wonderment.  I wasn’t there in 1927 but it’s easy to imagine that surprise burst of color and the anachronistic leap from the death of Jesus into a modern city, still two years away from 1929’s ‘Black Friday,’ as the media parallel of us kids getting to eat candy again.  “Yippee!  Jesus wins and our troubles are over.”

Easter joy, though, may be more demanding than Lent’s fasting and both Lent and the Easter Season’s 40 days depend on a habit of paying attention to beauty side by side with the world’s violence and its burden of grief.  The women and men who meet a risen Jesus in the gospels are in shock, incapacitated by what torture has done to the body of Jesus while he was executed.   In shock with a level of grief that makes joy seem impossible.  No one wanted to hear that Jesus rose;  check out the handful of accounts of encounters with him.  In every case, those women and men had to surrender their exhausted and battered hopes, had to begin to imagine that Jesus Risen called them into joy about the whole human condition, violence and beauty together.

Easter is a lot like Lent.  It’s about a habit of paying attention to the whole world’s realities, trusting that out of the wounds and grief, you can risk delight and even playful humor.   My fellow Jesuit, Justin Kelly, with whom I and our small group of Sunday worshipers celebrated Saturday’s Easter Vigil, reminded us, one might say, that The Resurrection is for grown-ups and their children, that we citizens of 2017 are asked to love the whole human package, to risk paying attention to beauty without avoiding the wounds.  Justin reached into where I live when he ended his homily by reciting one of the great Easter poems of our tradition,  Gerard Manley Hopkin’s “God’s Grandeur.”  Lots of exquisite images, of a battered world and the improbable beauty of the world’s rebirth.

Best to read Hopkins when you are not in a hurry,  the imagery is fine-tuned and then some.

This is day two of the Easter Season and the brilliant sun, crisp breezy air, leaves and flowers bursting.  “Get used to beauty,” they seem to say,  Risk it.

Have a blest week.

john sj


Today’s Post:    “God’s Grandeur”

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Gerard Manley Hopkins  28 July 1844 – 8 June, 1889


p.s. I was ready to send out today’s post when I read an email from one of the Work Day/Hard time list’s 2285 members, a searing account by a passionate teacher to just how hard it is to find hope when you look around the world of the whole human condition.   I am posting it without revealing the author’s name.   What s/he wrote this morning just belongs in this post.

Dear John,

I just read the poem from Thursday and wanted to shout – but what about the parents who do appear to give up their children? I have a young man (19 years old) who is certified with ASD who spent Easter under a bridge. I’ve known him for 2 years and have never met a family member. Wednesday was the last time I saw him and I spent much time and many hours thinking and praying for his protection. He’s been homeless since February. He’s been following the rotating shelter that goes from church to church, but found it was moving too far away from school. When I saw him last, he asked if someone could bring him a sleeping bag – that would make the rock a little easier to deal with. What do you do when the picture in your head is a young person, dirty, hungry, and alone?

When I watch TV and the heart wrenching music and ad want me to care about a lost or abused puppy when I know teenagers who are lost and abused.

It’s hard to think about forcing a child to learn a foreign language or algebra II when they haven’t eaten a real meal in several days and they don’t have a bed to sleep in.

It’s hard to thoroughly enjoy feasting at Easter when the smell of the wood fire that kept a student warm the night before is still fresh in one’s memory.

The worst part is offering that teen a ride, let alone a warm bed and a roof, could put my job in jeopardy. I wail at the society that would apparently throw this child away.

Sometimes I feel it is easier to look globally and see the “big picture” then look really close at hand and see the details. I’m looking for the answers to the question, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, when we fight for the protection of the others, how can we be creating our own “refugees”?


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