Today’s first reading is a sobering one. It could certainly give even a "cock-eyed" optimist pause. At first we are encouraged to enjoy the delights of our young and carefree days, but then the pretty curtain is pulled away to reveal our humbling mortality-the fleeting gift we call "life" is terribly fragile and there are painful truths inevitably to be faced. But denial is a tough nut to crack for us humans. The Gospel reading bears this out as we witness the disciples themselves too afraid to even try to comprehend the uncertain future awaiting Jesus. If only they could understand that beyond the crushing reality of His death is the promise of His eternal life.
We live in an age of "spin," where often the truth gets packaged or managed or hidden or delivered in a way that will make us feel anything but uneasy. And then when reality hits, we feel vulnerable, frantic over the loss of all that we thought we knew to be secure. One need look no further than this last week’s headlines and the current financial crisis to see unhappy truths revealing themselves and how devastating that may feel or be to many of us.
For me I guess the question is: why does the first reading present this fairly dismal picture of humanity in which all will ultimately return to dust? It makes me wonder if all our modern efforts to push unpleasantness away, to keep our mortality at bay and our options limitless are not actually preventing us from encountering God more fully. Today’s reading says it bluntly. Life really is short, often painful, and all things are vanity. But as the Gospel will reveal, it is in embracing the "real reality," our journey to the Cross, that we are promised a new life, and in that there is hope beyond our wildest dreams.
Nancy Nickel is the Communications Director for Holy Cross Province.