April 24, 2020

Reflection / John Shaughnessy

Is this the best compliment someone can give or get?

John ShaughnessyThe comment from the mom provided a hearty laugh—something needed even more these days.

As a friend told the story, the mom had been asked how homeschooling was going for her and her two grade-school children during this time when school buildings are closed for the year.

The mom smiled and replied with a touch of good-natured humor and exaggeration, “Two students were suspended for fighting, and one teacher was fired for drinking on the job.”

The joy continued when another friend shared the news that one of his daughters had become engaged in early April, a moment that led to a celebration with both sets of parents—a celebration with appropriate social distancing.

Then there’s the story of the 5-year-old girl who helped to make a chocolate cake for her grandfather’s birthday. When she saw her grandfather, she smiled and ran to give him a hug until her parents told her to stop, saying, “Remember, we need to keep our distance.” Her smile disappeared until her grandfather told her they would soon celebrate together with a big hug and a big piece of cake.

All these moments remind me of what may be the best compliment I’ve ever heard one friend give another: “She’s an Easter person. She knows that our faith is a faith of life ultimately. We know there’s the resurrection, and it gets us through the crosses of our life. That’s why there’s a joy to her.”

I find myself holding on, even tighter, to moments of joy during this time of the coronavirus crisis. I also find myself seeking the larger gifts these moments offer us.

So in the humor of a mother, there’s joy and the hope for a better day.

In a couple’s engagement, there’s the commitment of a deeper love.

In the desire to share a hug and a birthday cake, there’s the promise of a reunion that will uplift the heart and the soul.

All these characteristics help define an Easter person. So do the qualities of selflessness and faithfulness.

In his recent message to the world, Pope Francis focused on the people who have embraced selflessness and faithfulness during this pandemic. His list started with health care workers, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, transportation personnel, police officers, volunteers, priests, religious men and women, “and very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves.” But his list didn’t stop there.

He also included fathers, mothers, grandparents, teachers, people of “prayer and quiet service,” and people who exercise patience and offer hope.

The pope’s list is a reminder that during this time, during all times, we are all essential—and even more so in God’s eyes. Through the inseparable connection of his death and resurrection, Christ shows his desire to walk through this life with us while inviting us to share an eternal life with him.

During my own walks with my wife during this time, I have become more keenly aware this year of the splendors of spring, soaking in the sunshine, the sudden burst of tulips and daffodils, and the beauty of the blossoms of the dogwood, magnolia and fruit trees in our neighborhood.

I also appreciate the signs of encouragement that some people have planted in their yards: DON’T GIVE UP, ONE DAY AT A TIME, WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.

Most of all during our walks, I’ve savored the timeless scenes of life shared together—a father playing catch with his children, a mother hovering behind her wobbling, beginning-to-walk, 1-year-old daughter, another dad running and holding onto the back of a bike that his child is learning to ride.

Moments of joy, promise, love and hope.

Just as nature’s blooms of spring fill us with hope after a long, dark winter, so it is the nature of Easter people to live with hope—even through the darkest of times.

It is the gift our Savior gave us with his resurrection. It is the gift that an Easter person is called to share with a longing world.

(John Shaughnessy is the assistant editor of The Criterion and the author of Then Something Wondrous Happened: Unlikely encounters and unexpected graces in search of a friendship with God.)

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