While I was running yesterday, I began praying the Sorrowful mysteries of the rosary. For me, these mysteries are especially good to pray during a long hard run as it becomes easier for me to contemplate the pain and suffering Jesus went through for me and therefore, the little pain of sore legs or labored breathing or mental fatigue that runners often experience become not so great that I must stop or slow down. Instead, I am able, when I am having a good day, to offer that pain up for others and connect even more greatly with Christ’s sacrificial suffering and death.
On this particular day of prayer, however, I realized that it is so easy (okay, maybe “easy” isn’t the BEST choice of words) for me to spend time with Jesus’ agony in the garden, and the scourging at the pillar, and the crowning of thorns and the carrying of the cross and even the crucifixion, but when I pray the stations of the cross, I have a really hard time spending time with Jesus in the tomb.
As I think about the times I pray the Stations of the Cross, the one station that always seems to “fall flat” on me is the last one. Why? Is it simply that this station is the last one and by the end of anything (even prayer) I am ready to move on to the next thing – I don’t give that station the time it deserves? Or is there something inherent in the station that kind of makes me uncomfortable? Or is it just that I know the ending – I know he doesn’t stay there – and so I think about the resurrection instead? I’ll be honest, I don’t know which one of these is the greatest factor and I assume that at different times each of them plays a major factor, but for this one run, I spent time with the tomb.
It is a natural inclination, I think, to not want to think about the tomb. There is a mystery about the grave that leaves so many questions to be answered. There is an uncertainty about it all. But there is also great hope, that this is not the end. However, before Jesus, this was the end. When Jesus dies, if he is just a man, this is the end. The stone stays there and the burial garments keep him wrapped. For the first time, perhaps, the Son of God is left in total darkness. The one who brought light to the world in his coming as a child in Bethlehem has just been swallowed by the earth and enveloped in total darkness. All we have left, all the apostles and disciples have left, is Hope. We can hope that this man is who is seemed to be, we hope that we have given our whole lives to follow a man who will truly lead us all to paradise. And we must dwell in that hope, with great anxiety, perhaps. And isn’t that the way it is in our lives sometimes?
We go through life skipping along sometimes, the world is bright and sunny and everything is going our way. In fact, by the grace of God, we are doing great things and we can feel light of Christ reflecting off us into the world. And then there are times when we can’t even find God in the darkness. We are left reaching and grasping and hoping that we are still on the right path, that God has not abandoned us. Perhaps it is our own sinfulness that turns us from that light, or perhaps it is a loving God helping us to know that even in the times we struggle, he is still there so long as we stay faithful to Him. It is in those times that we enter the tomb with Christ, and it is there, that we continue to have hope.
In the readings from this past Sunday (and I love the way God can work in our prayer lives if we allow him – I didn’t read the readings before going on this run!), we heard about God promising to raise us from our tombs (Ez 37:12-14 ) and we got to hear the story of Lazarus being called out of his tomb (Jn 11:1-45 )! And what I love about both of these readings is that God must call us out of those tombs. God is our creator; God is our redeemer! God made us and God will call us back to Himself on the last day! It is our duty to know the voice of our creator and to respond when he calls!
There will be times of darkness, there will be times of uncertainty, but those times can be filled with faith and with hope. We don’t need to be afraid of the tomb. Instead, let us enter it willingly and as this season of Lent comes to a close, let us spend a little more time contemplating the darkness.