Our story begins again

 on April 1, 2021

Are we there yet?

I have vivid memories of our family hitting the road for vacation in July each year. The old blue Pontiac station wagon with parents, four kids and the dog would point in the direction of PEI, Nova Scotia or Quebec City. As a youngster, the thrill of the road trip usually lasted about an hour and then the chorus of calls would come from the back seat… Are we there yet?

And from the front came the measured response… Soon.

Long before hand-held devices, video screens or even FM radio, there were colouring books, card games and puzzles to occupy the kids as the car sped down the highway. Yet these paled in comparison to sitting in the window seat. The coveted window seat had to be shared amongst the four of us, an hour on and an hour off. From the widow seat, you could see the world pass by: rocks and trees, towns and road signs. From the window seat, you could count the Volkswagen Beetles, notice out-of-province licence plates, and prompt truck drivers to blow their horns.

And yet even then, the trip seemed impossibly long. The chorus of, are we there yet, would shift to: Can we stop? I have to go to the bathroom! The dog needs to go… Sometimes the interminable nature of the trip would cause us to turn on each other… You’re sitting on my side! Stop poking me! Mom, he’s making faces at me… am not!

It turns out young children have very little capacity to understand distance and time; they have no points of reference. It’s only with the frequency of trips that we begin to recognize how to name where we are by the landmarks we see on the way: the gas station where we always stop, the Big Apple, the provincial boundary, the island bridge. What young children do understand is the power of a story. Stories have a way of grounding, comforting and settling them so they can sleep at night, face an anxious moment or soothe a hurt. Stories make meaning and give bearings. And are adults really any different?

From the window seat, we have journeyed the familiar way of the cross. We have faced the landmarks of Holy Week that etch the soul – not as passive travellers but as active participants. Palm branches and donkey, bread and wine, betrayal and arrest, trial and cries of crucify him, hanging him from a tree, piercing his side, vinegar and insult, earthquake and torn temple veil.

How could we possibly think that turning on him like we turn on each other would make things better, would settle the score, would have the last word on Friday? How come we keep falling for the same old lie that death is the end of the story. It is not! Because on Sunday, on the third day, in the garden, he comes back. Life returns. As the story goes:

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.

“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary!”

On Sunday in the garden, our story begins again. On Sunday – we know not how – Jesus is raised from the dead. On Sunday, the disciples come out of lockdown. Peace is restored, forgiveness is offered, love wins. On Sunday, the grief of Friday is wiped away with a word… ALLELUIA! The Lord is risen indeed!

Trust and hope are planted once again in the human soul like a seed that falls into the earth and sprouts into new life. In the garden, life begins again. We begin once more. For as St. Paul would remind us: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And neither can pandemic.

From the back seat we ask…. Are we there yet?

And from the front seat we hear… Soon.

More than anything, we long to return, to hit the road, to break out. We pine to worship in person, dine in a restaurant, go back to school. We have come so far on the way. With the arrival of vaccines comes a deep hope that even with the approach of the third wave, the distance yet to travel is lessened. With the fortitude, the patience and the discipline honed by the year we have come through, life will return.


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