A classmate of mine (Fr. Kevin Schmittgens) did a rather fascinating project with his high school students, a project I encourage you to do as well. Simply put: they were asked to write a memoir of their lives. The trick was, they could only use six words. He actually stole the idea from a book he read which is based on this very simple, yet very intriguing premise.
Some of the memoirs were goofy, yet revealed some truth nonetheless. One procrastinator just scribbled very quickly: This is not good. I’m sorry. Another bold young man, stealing from Julius Caesar wrote: I came, I saw, I conquered. Some were very upbeat, while others are rather poignant. One girl, a dancer and an incredibly intelligent student wrote: Dancing through life, stumbling over myself. Another wrote: Only my music knows the truth.
Fr. Kevin writes: “One of the memoirs really stuck with me. It stuck because I believe that it is one that a lot of people experience, if not all of humanity. She simply wrote: I’m used to the word “no.” I’m used to the word “no.” Isn’t that the story of humanity in general? We sin. We say no to life. We suffer. Life says “no” to us. And we die – the ultimate “no” perpetrated on humanity. No. No. No. No. No. No. They are all before us, beside us, around us and inside us. And we begin to believe them. You can’t change the world. You can’t make a difference. You’re not good enough or smart enough or… whatever. And pretty soon, we believe that message. To paraphrase a vulgar bumper sticker: Life’s a “no” then you die.”
The disciples in the gospel had already succumbed to that “NO” mentality. When the women came back and reported what they had seen – what is their response? NONSENSE! Couldn’t be! He is dead! He is finished! (We are finished) Could Jesus be alive? The answer is no! I wonder how often I jump to that same conclusion. Could God be doing something NEW in my life? “Nonsense”.
But on Easter, we remember, we celebrate, we rejoice in a God who firmly and unequivocally responds to all of life with a “yes.” By raising Jesus from the dead, God says “yes” to creation, “yes” to life, “yes” to us. “God, are you there?” Yes. “God, do you care?” Yes. “Do you forgive us?” Yes. “Is the long reign of sin and sadness ended?” Yes. “Do you give us the chance and grace to start over?” Yes!
What Peter went to check out – if just to get the women to shut up – is the most impossible, implausible YES in all of the world. And there, Luke’s gospel leaves us this Easter evening – along with Simon Peter, peering into the empty tomb of our “NO”s, looking at all the ways we’ve shortchanged ourselves and God and life – wondering if there might be a different outcome, a different possibility.
So we too, stand before the empty tomb, and we remember this central, vital, essential tenet of our faith. We stand against the night, against the darkness, against the hate, against the futility, against the gloom, against the senselessness and dedicate ourselves to living the fullness of life in Christ. Our lives must now be a “yes” and we need to share that with a world that is far too used to the word “no.”
Because of Easter, our memoir can now and always be written in six words.
Christ is risen! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!