We always hurt those we love the most. Sometimes, those of us who love the church and know that the church loves us, find ourselves wounded and disappointed by what we experience. It would be far less painful if we were indifferent. A friend of mine returned from her Easter trip to Winnipeg let down as I was with Easter liturgy. We wonder, after this kind of experience, how do we respond? What is God asking from us?
This Easter I was visiting my family in Winnipeg and decided to attend a very early Resurrection Mass, meeting family members at one particular church, far from where I was staying. The Sunday morning was dark and very cold, with an icy wind, creating an atmosphere not at all indicative of spring, renewal or resurrection. As I drove to the opposite end of the city, I tried to cheer myself up by humming Easter hymns and listening to recorded bird songs. Since I expected a late breakfast, I decided to get a cup of coffee at a roadside 7-Eleven, one of very few places open at this hour. The place was deserted, with only one store attendant and one customer, an old man looking like a homeless person – or maybe a prophet [perhaps both]– in his untidy clothes and a long, white beard, also getting coffee. Our eyes met and he said, Happy Easter. Happy Easter to you too, I replied with a smile, and continued on my way. At the church, I expected an uplifting service. Instead, the priest admonished the congregation for not attending more often and in larger numbers, not bringing their children with them, and failing in some other respects; he then predicted a general fall of the parish. The hymn that followed, “wipe your tears and rejoice in the Risen Christ”, was sung quietly and lifelessly. I was sorry for that priest and that parish. I also thought it was not the right time to bring up complaints. The old man-prophet at the store was a messenger of Easter joy; the priest had not yet risen from his grave of troubles and depressing thoughts.