A reflection for Easter
He Is Risen!
A joyful sentence of three words …
We will hear this so many times in the coming days and weeks as the Easter mystery unfolds, as we try to make sense of it all.
Let me share with you a true story that opens a door in my heart as I attempt to “make sense of it all.”
In the Congregation, we have Sisters of Providence who are also blood sisters. One of these sister pairs is Sisters Joseph and Patty Fillenwarth. More than a year ago, Sister Joseph was diagnosed with cancer. From the day of the diagnosis on, her mantra was “be positive.”
She never missed a day ministering on behalf of Providence Food Pantry in West Terre Haute. Her warm smile never dimmed. During chemotherapy, she lost all of her beautiful white and wavy hair, so she began to sport a number of colorful scarves that sisters in our sewing room had fashioned for her. Anytime anyone asked, “How are you, Joseph?” her reply was always a version of, “Staying positive. Pray for me.”
In the meantime, Joseph’s younger sister, Sister Patty Fillenwarth, had a different response to the news (one I identified with more than Joseph’s). Patty cried and worried. Patty would come from Chicago to visit Joseph and cry. She would call Joseph and cry. When anyone asked Patty how she herself was doing, she cried.
I am not certain if Joseph and Patty were talking on the phone or in person, but Patty was crying. Sometime during that conversation, Joseph said to her younger sister, “If you are going to pray for me and don’t pray with faith, then don’t pray for me at all.” Oh my!
When Patty repeated this to some of us, I felt jolted out of my complacency, my doubt, any understanding of praying for someone.
As I write, Patty and all of us rejoice that Joseph is cancer free. “Be positive. Pray for me.”
I know Sister Joseph’s admonition will follow me through Holy Week as I meet up with the scribes and Pharisees, Peter and the other followers of Jesus, Mary the Mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the Roman soldiers, the crowds, the disciple Jesus loved – a cast of characters much like ourselves.
When Mary finds the tomb empty, I will definitely remember Sister Joseph’s words.
Through all these holy days, I hope to approach the rituals, the liturgies with a version of her admonition. If I am going to move through these days and to celebrate Easter without faith, then I may as well not celebrate it at all. It sounds harsh to me, and it inspires me.
How am I doing this season? Staying positive. Pray for me.