Appleton, WI

April 3/4: Day by Day with Father Bill – Weekend Edition

With guest columnist Emily Jenks (Neighborhood Outreach & Parish Vitality)

Our human nature has a particular way of connecting dates with memories. Oftentimes we carry these dates as personal timestamps in our heart, only to be shared with the closest of family and friends. We also have those dates we collect as a nation; 9/11 or Pearl Harbor Day. As we round out the middle of March and the end of Lent, I can’t help but think of the collective timestamp we all are passing through globally. As I’ve looked at the days on the calendar this month, I’ve thought of the last big gathering with big hugs, the last time I celebrated Mass with my church family (I even remember the dress I wore!) and the last time I went to work in “normal” fashion.

Early in the pandemic, I kept a photo journal of my experiences. Of course there are photos to document the empty shelves of food, all the things I baked, and once in a lifetime gas prices. It also helped me reminisce on the surge of love in our neighborhood and community; a box of water marked “free for homeless”, notes of encouragement on sidewalks, and a sign in my neighbor’s yard proclaiming “Jesus has risen” on Easter morning. We were experiencing an unprecedented time of coming together in the midst of a great darkness.

Reflecting back through my photos and the year, I think about how much we’ve been through as individuals and collectively since those early days of the pandemic. At times it has been difficult to love our neighbor, let alone a stranger. It can be tempting to think those spontaneous acts of love and unity we witnessed were as once in a lifetime as the gas prices we saw.

One of my favorite parts of our great Easter story are the women at the tomb. They had been with Jesus throughout His ministry, witnessing His great miracles, seeing and hearing His love and compassion. I imagine they worked quietly in the background, tending to the small details in love and compassion and helping His mission to unfold. We know their faithfulness brought them to the cross with Jesus, to His tomb where they wept.

I can imagine they wanted to go back to the “surges” of love seen in the miracles of Jesus or in His words as He taught to the great multitude, but they made the choice to press on to the tomb. Their willingness to follow and tend to Jesus, no matter where he went, even in death, led them to that glorious Easter morning, and seeing Him resurrected and in the flesh once again.

As we enter this Holy Week and Easter, I pray we can emulate the faithfulness of Mary Magdalene and the other women at the tomb, choosing to press on – into the light of the resurrection. That we can be steadfast and faithful in our acts of love to our neighbors, great and small, regardless of circumstance or worldly condition, so we can spread the Easter message and joy to everyone we meet.