When my maternal grandmother whom I loved dearly died nineteen years ago, I became angry at God. I was in my mid-twenties, struggling mightily as a first time teacher, trying to coax spoiled adolescent boys to study Chemistry. My family was undergoing hardships and challenges even greater than those we faced immigrating to the US. My grandmother’s painful passing followed my grandfather’s death nine months earlier. It compounded the deepening sense of loss I tried to keep at bay. Somehow, I was led one afternoon to the Sacramento River nearby, a place where I had experienced many moments of consolation, being loved, connected, close to God. I was alone. I wrote on a piece of paper all the things I was mad at God about, wrapped it around a rock, and threw it into the river. For the next few minutes, I cursed at God, using primal screams rather than expletives. Then, sat with many hard feelings; I became quiet and listened. It was cathartic. Yet, I was still afraid. As I walked back home, I began to hum the song “Be Not Afraid.” In the coming days, I also hummed “You Are Mine.” Gradually, I was consoled. Slowly, I experienced peace. I learned later that feeling angry was part of my coming to terms with both of my grandparents’ death. And about anger as one of the stages of grief that Elizabeth Kubler-Ross described.
This experience of life, death, new life taught me much about the Paschal mystery incarnated in each of our lives. When we love, meaning is born. When our loved one dies, suffering or loss of meaning dominates. When we grieve genuinely, new meaning is born. The experience by the river was the first time I dared to express anger at God. I risked God’s wrath (so I had feared) by “letting God have it.” The quiet listening afterwards was my “empty tomb” experience. Something new and surprising happened; my relationship with God has not been the same since. It matured. I trusted more in God’s abiding goodness. In his Easter Vigil homily, the Pope spoke movingly about God opens “us to the newness that transforms, to the beautiful surprises of God” even though we resist.
Experiencing the resurrection always involve a newness, after some real sense of death and loss which heightens our fears. It is no accident that the second most frequent expression in the Bible is “Do not be afraid.” (The first is “love”). The Risen Jesus always console. God knows our hearts well. God invites us to revisit the Galilee-like places in our lives (like the Sacramento River for me). On the way, the Risen One greets us and transforms our hearts.
The resurrection is not a happy ending to a sad story. It’s integral to the story, giving us a lens of hope to interpret the events of our lives in new light, with greater meaning. Without it, there would be no story worth telling.
Risen Lord, where do you invite me to revisit with you, to be honest with my feelings and attitudes, and wait for you?