God is our everywhere, our everything

April 7, 2023 | Life Lines

At this point in the season, we’re past our Lenten promises — many of them unfulfilled — and wondering if we’ve allowed ourselves to be changed at all during these 40 days. Has the journey brought us closer to God? Closer to our true self? Closer to others? The good news is that the end of Lent is not the end of the journey. Just the opposite. We now stand on the threshold of resurrection, waiting in the emptiness after Calvary, the emptiness of Holy Saturday, eyes trained on the horizon for the spark of light that will come with the new fire of Easter and news of the empty tomb.

It’s strange how this time in our liturgical cycle brings us face to face with two sides of emptiness — one born of desperation after the crucifixion when all hope seemed lost and the other an emptiness brimming with possibility, an emptiness so full we can’t help but trust even when logic tells us otherwise. Imagine today you are one of the women visiting the tomb with spices to anoint Jesus’ body, or perhaps you are one of the men locked in hiding out of fear. What are you thinking? Do you dare hope? Do you trust a shimmering mirage, an angel outside the tomb telling you not to be afraid? Do you trust that Jesus was who he says he was and will do what he promised? It requires more than a leap of faith. It requires total and complete surrender to things beyond our comprehension.

About six years ago, a Trappist monk at the Abbey of the Genesee in western New York asked me, during a spiritual direction session, to consider the meaning of the infinite — a God beyond all time and space. “When you deal with God, you enter another world,” said Father John Eudes Bamberger, OCSO, who was a novice under Thomas Merton, perhaps the most famous Trappist monk, and a spiritual director to theologian and writer Henri Nouwen. Throughout our hour-long session, Father John Eudes kept coming back to death and the fact that it could show up unbidden at any moment. Our challenge, he said, is to live for the next world not for this passing version.

I remember as I made the four-hour drive home later that weekend, I was cut off by a truck pulling a boat, and in a split second I had to maneuver my car to save my life. It was that close. It was as though the Spirit wanted to hammer home Father John Eudes’ lesson: We really do not know the day or the hour, so why do we live as though our lives on earth are guaranteed?

That lesson came flooding back as I thought about the women at the tomb, confused by the absence of a body. The disciples in hiding, confused by the story the women tell. There is so much confusion today. None of it makes sense. How can this be? Because we are dealing with God, and when we deal with God, we have to check our human sensibilities at the door.

On this day of waiting, we ponder the infinite, which just yesterday seemed impossible. God makes a way where there was none before. “We live every day by acts of faith,” the old monk told me as I sat before him full of confusion and doubt about my own life, a modern version of the disbelieving disciples. “We have to trust,” he said, seeming to see right through me to the questions in my soul.

We have to trust that God can do what we cannot. Trust that no matter how we fared during our Lenten journey, we are beloved just the same. Trust that what we see in this life is its own shimmering mirage; we live for what comes next.

God is here. Now. We don’t have to look for God because God is our everywhere and our everything. The tomb is empty, and our hearts are full.

This column originally appeared in the April 6, 2023, issue of The Evangelist.

Photo by Mary DeTurris Poust at the Abbey of the Genesee, Piffard, NY.

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