“...death no longer has power over [Christ].”
~from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 6
My partner and I just returned yesterday from vacation, and wanted to attend the Easter Vigil at our church last evening. That line from Paul’s letter to the Romans was read last evening at the Vigil. I love that line and I love the Easter Vigil. The Vigil is a wonderful liturgical celebration of light entering the darkness, and readings that remind us of that Light that has come into the world! It’s also a time to initiate people who are becoming Catholic. Watching their initiation into the Catholic faith takes me deep into my own faith and that faith has been so important in my own journey. Their initiation initiates me back into a deeper relationship and intimacy with my God, and recalls me to that abiding presence throughout my life, even when I may have thought that God was not present. Those are thoughts of death, and St. Paul reminds me that death has been conquered, once and for all!
At last night’s Vigil, there was another visible reminder of new life overcoming death. As we were standing in the gathering space before the Vigil, a woman entered that I have seen many times at church. Her head was shaved bald. I had suspected from seeing her recently at church that there may be a health issue with her. I found out after the Vigil that she in fact has been diagnosed with breast cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy, and will undergo surgery and radiation in the near future.
She is a young mother. She and her husband have 3 children. The person who told me about her diagnosis, when speaking about her hair loss, said: “She started losing her hair during chemo. So she decided to cut it all off. That is just so her.”
The woman I saw at church last night is just that - strong, resilient, head held high, taking the experiences of life head on! Even though I don’t know her, she was a bright light in that church last night! She reminds me, in the flesh, that death no longer has power! She stood proud and tall with her bald head and cancer moving through her body, and declared that statement loud and clear! She reminds me of another line from scripture, “Death, where is your sting??!!” A cancer diagnosis is not going to stop her from living, and living life to the fullest! Even if it means she does so with no hair!
Life is what it’s all about, my friends. We are meant to be people who live life to the fullest extent that we are able to, even when life throws us the proverbial curve ball. My sense is that this woman has prioritized her life, and she has chosen to live rather than begin to die! She has chosen to leave the empty tomb, just like Jesus, and enter more deeply into life, new life!
In last evening’s gospel reading from Matthew’s gospel, it’s about Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at the tomb. They are told by an angel, “Do not be afraid!” They are also told to go share the Good News of what they have experienced at the empty tomb with the disciples. Last evening, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary became flesh and blood in the woman with no hair. This woman announced, loud and clear, DO NOT BE AFRAID! And she was a very visible presence of the resurrection for me. She rolled back the rock from the empty tomb and said, “I am alive! I am alive for you so that you may have life!” Immense gratitude to my bald headed church friend for showing me what resurrected life looks like on the outside of the tomb. Death certainly has no power over her, over Christ, and the rest of us humans! Happy Easter to all of you!
NOTE: So, many of you have been following my daily posts through this season of Lent. I appreciate your likes, your comments, and your presence. My hope is that these daily reflections have been, at the very least, a place for pause and enrichment in your lives. I truly believe in the resiliency and potential of the human person, and want to encourage that daily! I am going to continue these blog posts, but not on a daily basis. I will, however, be committing to posting a few times a week. I have enjoyed writing these reflections, and will continue to enjoy them because most days I am writing to myself as well. May your lives continue to grow and expand in life, light and love as we make this journey together!