Weeping on Easter

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Photo by: Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.

Without fail, the tears start welling up at almost the exact same time. It’s always Easter Mass. I could set my watch to it, but I’d never dare because the annoying alarm would draw even more attention at a time I’d prefer to simply disappear. Like it or not, there’s no stemming the tide of my mounting emotions. I bow my head and clench my eyes shut hoping no one around me notices. Usually, I get by without drawing too much attention to my red nose and watery eyes. But occasionally my reaction is so intense, a series of muffled involuntary sniffles gives me away. The kids or my husband will look at me with startled questioning eyes. My children especially probe my face with their intense, troubled looks. To lessen their worry, I flash a huge toothy smile and roll my eyes to let them know I’m fine—not only fine, I’m overcome with sheer joy. These are tears of complete happiness.

The feeling sneaks up on me just moments before the Eucharist while I sit quietly kneeling in anticipation. As I await my turn to queue up and approach the Blessed Sacrament, I hear the cantor say, “Turn to page ___ in your songbooks “I Am the Bread of Life.” Oh no. I know what’s about to happen. It’s been the drill for almost as many years as I can remember. Upon the very first notes of the solemn tune, I feel an immense swell of gratitude in Jesus’ great promise—His unimaginable promise of eternal life on this holiest of days, marking His victory over death. I hate death. The doleful violin cuts to my core. 

I am the Bread of life,

He who comes to Me shall not hunger,

He who believes in Me shall not thirst.

No one can come to Me

Unless the Father beckons.

It’s no wonder this is a staple at Catholic funerals, including my own father’s. The stirring words transport me to that time shuffling behind his casket as I nervously stare at the tips of my shoes while my three-year-old’s hand tightly grips mine. By the time the haunting refrain has begun, waterworks commence.

And I will raise you up.

And I will raise you up.

And I will raise you up on the last day,

I’m about done for. I’m merely fighting back the torrent now.

The bread that I will give

Is My flesh for the life of the world,

And he who eats of this bread,

He shall live forever,

He shall live forever.

“He shall live forever.” This particular line threatens to steal my last ounce of composure. Now I have to be extremely mindful as it can easily segue into uncontrollable sobs. The more I try to stifle the escalating feelings, the more difficult it becomes to keep a lid on, not unlike when you’re trying to quiet irrepressible laughter. So I let it out in tiny spurts and release the pressure little by little. I breathe in slowly. He has conquered death for me and for all of my loved ones through His glorious resurrection. I exhale the needless sadness. No one is denied this amazing gift, not even the annoying lady who refused to scooch down and make more room in the pew. She’s got a shot at eternity too.

The heady concept of everlasting life courses through the pathways of my brain as my heartbeat seems to slow. Now I lean forward in the pew and hold my clasped hands in front of my face. They make a good shield. I’m contemplating the promise of something too sweet. Something too great. Something too beautiful. Something too perfect.

Yet with every cell in my body, I believe. I know from the depths of my soul that His promise is true. That someday, I will be reunited not only with my Creator who loves me without condition or barrier, but I will again gaze upon my dear steadfast mom who left this world entirely too early and my father who quietly joined her some fifteen years later. I remember my two babies who expired in the womb and all the amazing people who have gone before me leaving giant footprints to follow. In the same way, I would hopscotch through the biggest boot prints in the deep snow as a child walking home from school on bitter winter days. They help me navigate a difficult path and are urging me on. I know it in my bones.

Unless you eat

Of the flesh of the Son of Man

And drink of His blood,

And drink of His blood,

You shall not have life within you.

How did I, a sinner get invited to this heavenly banquet? I’m the same lady who glared impatiently and threatened my kids just three-quarters of an hour earlier so we’d be ensured a seat at Easter mass. I surreptitiously reach for a tissue and wipe my eyes as my row collectively stands. I focus on the back of the person in front of me. Keep calm. This incredible promise is just moments away now, mere steps to refreshment on my harrowing journey. I feel like I’ve won the lottery without ever purchasing a ticket. How?

I’m quietly weeping warm tears. Such an unfathomable treasure awaits. He who is risen is present here and now in the Eucharist. He who has beat death once and for all wants me to spend eternity in His generous love. Me.

I am the Resurrection,

I am the Life,

He who believes in Me

Even if he die,

He shall live forever.

Back at my seat again. I bask in the perfect love that promises to keep me going, assuming I allow it. I desperately want to allow it. I have been provided with the fuel to get me through this life to my eventual, real home, the one where my Maker resides. He is waiting for me and drawing me to Him. My loved ones who have been blessed to enjoy the Beatific Vision—they wait with Him. I imagine they wait with excited anticipation and maybe, just maybe they cry big unbridled tears of joy too.

And I will raise you up.

And I will raise you up.

And I will raise you up on the last day.

Rejoice! For He is risen!

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