As you know, smart phones can do many things. One of them is to take your spoken words and type them for you, so you can send them as an email or a text. “Hey Mom, I just want you to know I love you.” It is a handy function to have, great for sending texts and emails on the go. What I didn’t know is that God can also use that voice to text function to communicate directly to us. I know this, because at the beginning of Lent, he did just that.
It was a horrible day. I had spent time the night before with my friend with ALS, and it broke my heart to see how far the disease had progressed since our last visit. I had not been praying like I had hoped to do as part of my Lenten resolutions. I was behind on a lot of things, and feeling the pressure. And to top it off, it was one of those cold and rainy and grey and miserable days that was supposed to be spring but felt more like the winter that would NEVER end… And I was pretty down on myself. (Granted, the last three of these are all first world problems – but they were MY first world problems.)
I was using my phone to respond to some questions about what songs are permissible in Lent. So I spoke the words into my phone: “You can sing anything as long as it does not have an alleluia in it.” In place of the “an alleluia in it”, do you know what my phone typed? Do you know what God chose to type into my heart that ugly day via my voice to text feature? And I love you yet! And I love you yet!
I am not sure if there is a better translation out there anywhere for the word Alleluia. I don’t even know if there is a translation for Alleluia. I just heard those word “And I love you yet!” washing over me, pulling away the stone from my heart, telling me: It’s is not over – not for you, for your friend, for your prayer, for your deadlines – it is not over, because I love you yet!
This is the heart of the Easter message. Not even the darkness of sin and death can keep the Lord of love trapped in the tomb. That is what the Father said to the Son in the stone cold tomb which caused him to rise. And because the Lord loves us yet, then we are free to do amazing things to pass that love on.
Fr. Robert Barron, author of the Catholicism series, said it this way:
The fear of death is like a cloud, a terrible shadow that falls over human life and experience. All of our proximate fears are reflections of, and participation in, this primordial fear. It cramps us, turns us in on ourselves, makes us defensive, hateful, violent, and vengeful.
Further, most of the structures of oppression in the world are predicated upon the fear of death. Because a tyrant can threaten his people with death, he can dominate them; because a dictator can threaten people with killing, he can perpetrate all sorts of injustice.
But what would life be like if we were no longer afraid? What if death had finally lost its sting?
Then we would live as the saints do–not immune to suffering, but, if I can put it this way, unaffected by it. We would know that we are loved by a power that transcends death, and this would fill us with an exuberance beyond measure. Jesus rose to inaugurate this fearless and death-defying love.
That is the message my phone taught me early this Lent. No matter the struggles, no matter the darkness, no matter how seemingly trapped we are in the tomb, whether it is a ‘first world tomb’ like my day, or the bitter life and death struggles of my friend with ALS; or the structures of sin and despair that we have been confronting with our Lent 4.5 series. There is one who removes the stones from the entrances to our tombs – because he is with us yet! and he loves us yet! And because he loves us yet, then we are empowered and impelled to not stop loving until all our brothers and sisters know the same truth. Like Mary of Magdala, we are called to RUN to all the places that need our love.
This year, every time you hear the Alleluia sung, every time you see it on a greeting card, every time you read it in the gospel story – do what my phone did with my text – a little defiant auto-correcting. Each moment you spend in loving service, each selfish addiction you choose to confront and change, each resolution from our Lent 4.5 program you choose to live, each and every moment of your day – let YOUR heart say to those you encounter what the Father said to Jesus’ on his resurrection day, and what Jesus says to each of this morning: And I love you yet!