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Welcome the excitement of Easter, and stay for the journey

             At the high school where I teach, the seniors make a Kairos retreat. They either leave on Tuesday after school and return Friday evening, or they leave after school on Thursday and return on Sunday evening. Either way, they always return from the retreat high as a kite, gung-ho for God. On the next school day, the morning Mass is packed with them. They rush to tell me how “awesome” the retreat was.

            Perhaps you are on a religious high as well. The mysteries of Holy Week and the glory of Easter have a strong and lingering impact. And if the weather is nice, the warm air and budding trees and grass growing green only accentuate the high.

            All that is not only good and desirable, it is also welcomed. Seeing my students excited about their faith, instead of bored with it, is delightful. Parishioners have a spring in their step and a smile on their face. “Happy Easter” comes forth from them spontaneously and sincerely.

            However, be prepared for the crash. “All of you will have your faith shaken,” Jesus says in Mark 14:27.

            For my students, the crash comes about a week after the retreat; some take a little longer. The novelty wears off and the mundane creeps back in. The languid looks reappear.

            I don’t know how or when the crash affects you.

            Why am I playing the killjoy, here? Because being shaken in faith – that is, doubt – is inevitably a component of faith. As Thomas Merton notes, “The man of faith who has never experienced doubt is not a man of faith.”

            So my reason for bringing all this up is to say to you: don’t freak out when you crash. Don’t be afraid. Don’t despair. If Peter and the boys had their faith shaken, so will you; so will I. 

            The remedy for doubt is not to block it, but to go through it. Blocking it will only delay its demise. Going through it means putting your head down and plowing ahead despite the faith offering you no solace or insight or even joy. But it will pass. The air will clear and the light will once again shine.

            The monks call this shaking of one’s faith acedia. Most likely when acedia attacks you, it will appear in the form of apathy. Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost are behind you, and the long haul of Ordinary Time stretches before you. The delight and wonder of Advent and Christmas are not even within reach. Dulls-ville.

            Or maybe the crash is even more severe. Perhaps COVID-19 has claimed a friend or a loved one. Why would God allow that to happen?

            I have no remedy for you. But I do offer you this suggestion. Take a look at what Jesus says one verse after the one quoted above: “But after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.” (Mark 14:28)

            The resurrection. Focus on that, for that is the core of the Gospel: when you die, you don’t stay dead. And whereas a shaken faith may, in the depths of acedia, pooh-pooh that notion, neither will a shaken faith squash it, either. Furthermore, Galilee is where Jesus’ ministry began and flourished.

            So go back to your beginnings in the faith. Conjure up where your ministry sparkled. Recall how the veil was lifted for you, and for that brief shining moment you were so infused with the Holy Spirit that you thought it would never end.

            Peter and the boys came around. So will you. The retreat always ends. You will crash, but you shall not burn.

            Happy Easter season, Church of Gary.

 

            Deacon Mark Plaiss teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Ill. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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