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No Easter Sunday without Good Friday

 

It is Christ dying and rising! Salvation comes indeed in the death and resurrection of Christ. This is an ongoing reality of Christ. This is the heart of remembering Jesus every year during the Lenten season and over the Easter celebrations.

I always share with others whenever I am in other countries, that for us in the fundamentally Christian Philippines, there are two highly important events; the Christmas season and the Lenten season.

There is a big difference between the two celebrations, as Christmas has a festive atmosphere with lights and decorations, as well as congested roads; and Holy Week is the one time you will see Filipinos quite subdued.

I will always remember Holy Week in a special way, because of a special person in my life, my father.

My father has been the test of my faith. My greatest misery was to watch his body deteriorating and my greatest fear was losing him one day.

He was sick for five years, suffering on his bed after a stroke. Every time God calls me to leave my country, my one prayer is, “Lord, let nothing happen to my father while I am away.”

When I started my mission in the Union of Myanmar, I believed in my heart that nothing would happen to my father, because God made a promise to me, like a covenant between me and him.

At every Eucharist I was part of, I always prayed during the consecration of the host, “Lord, remember my father, remember your promise.” On my third month in Myanmar, I received a call from my family, my eldest sister was crying as she spoke to me on the phone, “Dong, can you come home the soonest time possible?”

In the background I could hear all my family crying. My heart was beating really fast. My sister continued, “I think we are losing daddy. He has been unconscious since yesterday, breathing very slow and can’t wake up.”

While she was talking to me, I was praying in my heart. “Lord, your promise…” Then I talked to my sister, trying to calm her down as I got back my inner strength, believing that nothing would happen to my father.

While I was still talking to her, my younger sister said that he started to move his fingers and gasped for breath, as if coming back from death, slowly opened his eyes and asked for water, as his mouth was very dry. My sister said, “He has come back!” In my heart I said, “I know…”

My family said that he has travelled already, but for some reason he has come back. I know why. I believe in God’s promise and I believe in the connection of my spirit with my father.

After a month I came back home to The Philippines for the Lenten season to finish my course on spiritual direction with the Centre for Ignatian Spirituality.

I chose to stay and give an Ignatian retreat during Holy Week. During Good Friday, I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. Since morning, I felt that the spirit in me was down.

I was asking myself, is it because it is Good Friday? I knew inside me, something was happening, something was moving. At 3:00pm, we began the veneration of the cross.

The inner movement in me became strong. When the cross was lifted up, suddenly I saw a vision of Christ on the cross, dying. His face was replaced by the face of my father.

The vision became clear. I saw their faces alternately, both were dying. This time I was crying. I knew in my heart, something was happening to my father right at that very moment, for I could see a vision and my spirit was confirming it.

After the ritual, I went back to my room. Just at that moment, the phone rang. In my heart, I knew what was happening, it was my sister. When I picked up the phone I instantly asked my sister, “What happened to daddy?” She said, “Come home, now…”

I left Ateneo where the retreat was being held immediately. Since our home is nearby and there was no traffic, I managed to drive it in five minutes! I saw my father on the bed, I embraced him, talked to him.

I once heard from a friend that the last sense that goes out when we die is the sense of hearing. So I knew, he could still hear me. I talked to him, teased him, mentioned some memories to him and told him about my love for him.

We were on the bed, his head on my arms, I was feeling his heart, no heartbeat, no pulse, he was pale. He was gone…

My father died on Good Friday with Christ. I know he chose the time and date of his death. I am happy that God kept his promise, after all I know I am his favourite, we all are.

That experience was difficult for me. Inside, I was grieving over the death of my father. Outside, I looked back over my life. During that period, I was lonely because when I left The Philippines, I left my family, my community, my friends, my profession, everything that I had invested in, even some unfulfilled dreams…

A few days after the death of my father I was so down, feeling that all struggles were coming all at the same time. It was the inauguration and blessing of the Fondacio Centre in The Philippines, I couldn’t bear to go near the place.

I was hurting inside, broken. From afar, I was watching as the people celebrated, I was telling myself, “I helped to give birth to this school, why do I need to go? Before the opening of the school, I was called to go back to Myanmar.”

My close friend, a priest, was standing beside me at that time. Understanding my struggle, he asked me, “Do you understand the Paschal mystery of Jesus?” I just looked at him. He looked at the place of celebration and told me, “Go there. It is the only way to understand the passion of Jesus, go through the pain up to the end.”

I realised at that moment that I was experiencing the Paschal mystery of Jesus. What it means to die. Inside me, I was dying at that moment.

What does it mean to take up our cross? It is to renounce the things which we believe are extremely important in our lives. It was only after going through the pains and fully letting go of the things that are important to me that I have experienced the resurrection.

Since giving up these things, I have a new heart. I feel renewed and ready to take on an adventure again with my God. After embracing the newness, I have experienced a fruitful life in my mission in Myanmar.

We need a paschal perspective in life. Though life has its difficulties, we know that Christ brings life through death. But we cannot have Easter Sunday without Good Friday. It is the pattern of our lives. It becomes the source of new life, the source of salvation. New life through death.

 

                             • Carol Daria