Holy Saturday: After the Crash
(The following reflection is a slightly revised version of the one posted on Holy Saturday, 2016)
Because we know how the story ends, we find it hard to fully appreciate Holy Saturday’s relevance to our lives. For most of us it is simply the day-long liturgical pause before what we know is coming—Easter! It gives us a day to decorate the church and prepare food for Easter Sunday. It is hard for us to remember that for the disciples it was the day after the crash. It was the day after all their hopes and dreams had been shattered. It was the day that they had to start living life without Jesus—for good. The hope-filled journey that began in Galilee was over. Back to the drawing board.
We get a taste of what the experience of Holy Saturday was like for the disciples if we have experienced the death of someone close to us. The day after they have died, we wake up and there is an ache inside of us. How do we do this now? I have never lived without a dad; it is so strange. I can’t remember a time in my life when my wife wasn’t with me—and now she’s gone. On Holy Saturday we remember that Jesus is buried in a tomb; he is dead; and the discipleship journey is over.
Holy Saturday is not just about the death of a person, but about the death of anything that we held dear. It is about the death of dreams. It is about the death of marriages, friendships, careers. It is about the death of the way the church used to be. It is about the death of ministries and programs that once bore much fruit, but now are gone. It is about the loss of companions in ministry who have moved away or become disaffected. It is about the death of all our best efforts to make a difference in our world, and the realization that the kingdom doesn’t come on demand. It is about the realization that sooner or later those of us who follow Jesus will be on our way to bury him without a clue as to what will happen next. It is about completely letting go of what we have known without any expectation of what is to come.
How do we live as we let go of what has died? We grieve. We weep. We pour out our pain on God and others. We wander around in a daze—shocked! But like the women who came to the tomb on the first Easter morning, we also keep putting one step in front of the other. We do the stuff that needs to be done—like getting the spices together to anoint Jesus’ body. After our lives fall apart, we grieve, but we also clean the house, go to work, cut the lawn and pay the bills. We keep on with the business of living and wait.
How long do we wait? Our Holy Saturday may be a few days or a few years. There is nothing we can do to open up a new chapter. There is no magic button to press. All we can do is wait and hope that the God whose love is steadfast, and whose mercy endures forever, will act. That as the psalmist says, “Weeping may spend the night/But joy comes in the morning (30.5).