“April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.”
T.S. Eliot, the author of these first seven lines of his famous poem, “The Waste Land,” could well be a contemporary columnist for any paper in the world today. For New Englanders, April is always a tease for spring. The days can flip from sunny warm weather where coats are shed and windows opened to a late wintry blizzard which forces us to shovel, plow and keeps us inside by a fire.
The poet probably isn’t just talking about temperature and precipitation. He seems to be alluding to a refusal to hope, to believe that there can be joy after suffering, that life can spring from despair. Or to put it in today’s news accounts, whether tweeted or printed, that there is more to life than terrorist attacks and discouraging presidential elections. Or that Easter is real, that resurrection can be a daily experience, rather than merely a day of yellow Peeps and chocolate bunnies.
Resurrection is as difficult an act of faith as is suffering. Somehow we aren’t as aware of the need to believe in it as we are of the necessity of faith during times of great distress. When the world seems to be crashing around us and we have nowhere to turn, often we think of God and cry out for help and assistance, for peace and a ceasing of the pain and sorrow. We can’t escape suffering. Like an abscessed truth continually makes itself known, so does pain of any kind, either physical or emotional, easily consume us. If we lose a home or a job or a loved one, no one has to remind us to feel bad. It happens naturally.
On the other hand, when we have quietly given up hope in the small world of our own families or in the wider world of our global family, it’s harder to remember to believe in resurrection. Jesus Christ rose from the dead; he conquered death and hopelessness. No matter the agony, the pain, the loss, the sorrow, there is always hope. We don’t feel it; we know it by faith. It is pure gift of God.
Resurrection means that we hang onto a desire for life even when a pregnancy is a shock.
Resurrection means that a child with physical or emotional difficulties is loved unconditionally.
Resurrection means that a betrayal by a friend won’t be the last word in the relationship.
Resurrection means that a necessary divorce doesn’t have to be an experience of hatred.
Resurrection means that the limitations of aging in those we love is a moment of grace, not despair.
Resurrection means that we believe Jesus meant it when he asked us to love our enemies .
Resurrection means that differences of race or ethnicity are not differences in God’s eyes.
God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Because of this, “All changed, changed utterly.”
Sister Patricia McCarthy is provincial for the Congregation of Notre Dame. For many years she taught troubled children and victims of abuse.