Tomorrow is the final day of Lent before the Triduum begins. Easter is the one time of the year I miss living in California … especially my “home” parish of Holy Family in South Pasadena where I was welcomed into the Catholic Church. This is where I received the Eucharist for the first time, where I took my confirmation name after a Scottish missionary Amy Carmichael, whose writings and hymns inspired me along the unconventional path I believed God had called me to follow.
I was thirty years old at the time. I was restless, caught between the life I wanted and the one that I had because of a series of my own less-than-optimal choices: a dead-end job, a dead-end relationship, and feeling completely isolated from those who loved me most.
That Easter Vigil provided the impetus I needed to get a fresh start on life. Within six months, I had relocated halfway across the country to begin my dream job as an editor of a religious book publishing house. A few years later, I met Craig. A few years after that, we had our family.
Of course, becoming Catholic wasn’t a cure-all. From time to time, there is still a disconnect between the life I want and the one I have. And I still harbor flaws and weaknesses that, try as I might, I find difficult to shake.
For example, tonight an extended family member gave us a generous gift — a summer excursion for Craig and the kids and me. While I was delighted at the prospect of taking this trip, a part of me was bothered by the fact that we were being sent rather than taken. We wanted to spend time with this person … but that desire never seems to be reciprocated.
One of the dirty little secrets “extraordinary families” sometimes face is that extended family doesn’t always embrace the new family unit with as much enthusiasm as we might wish. Some discharge “familial responsibilities” as perfunctorily as possible, lavishing the lion’s share of attention on those with biological ties. Helping such family members overcome their natural reticence can be a real challenge — and there may be times when it’s better to simply overlook it.
This is much harder to do, of course, when the children notice. “How come ________ gets to spend Christmas with ____, and we never get to see them? How come we don’t get to sleep over _____’s house?” Responding to questions like this can be tricky. Striking the right balance between honesty and kindness is key. But even more important is to find a way to exorcise any residual resentments you may be harboring yourself.
This is the explanation I’ve been practicing, to serve up at the right time. “People show their love in different ways. Some people like lots of hugs, and spend lots of time together. Others like to give presents. Some people have lots of love in their hearts to share … and others are more careful about sharing their hearts. It’s sad, ’cause they miss out on God’s best gifts that way! We need to be patient, and ask God to help us show love, no matter what. That’s what Jesus wants us to do.”
During Holy Week, we remember all the people in the life of Jesus who didn’t reciprocate the love He so freely gave them, in the way He must have longed for them to show it. With some notable exceptions — Mary, who anointed the Lord with oil and dried His feet with her hair; the beloved disciple, who never left His side and who took His mother into his own home; St. Veronica and St. Simon, who came to Him along the Via Dolorosa — after those who had followed Him most closely during the three years of His public ministry, fell far short of fidelity. And yet, He loved them still.
This week, we have another opportunity to love not as we are loved by other frail and flawed human beings, but because of the divine love that has been poured out upon us, especially during this holy Easter season.
Happy Holy Week … and Happy Easter!