A blessed Easter to all!
Last Friday I had a less than happy experience, which taught me a lesson about this Holy Week.
For months I had looked forward to flying home for the first Holy Communion of my grandniece, Nora. All was in order as I packed to fly out early Friday morning, to be there for Nora on Saturday, then fly back to be at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for Palm Sunday.
Very early Friday morning I awoke to see the notice on my cell phone that the flight had been cancelled. Oh well, I thought, I’ll head out there anyway to book the next plane to St. Louis.
Upon arrival at LaGuardia, I discovered that thousands were in the same predicament! Bad weather in various other parts of the county had led to a lot of cancellations, and all other flights were already jammed due to Holy Week, Passover, and spring breaks. I stood in line for an hour-and-a-half, only to be put on standby for the next plane out. Then I stood for another hour-and-a-half waiting for the possible seat, only to watch the jet pull away. At that point, an attendant told me there was no chance to make any connections or flights the rest of the day, so backed up was everything.
I was exhausted, disappointed, mad, and sad at missing the long anticipated event.
But, here’s what I learned: during those three hours of waiting, barely moving, and hoping for some good news, I got to know and appreciate the folks waiting in line with me.
Instead of anger, impatience, and threats, the folks with me were chatty, hopeful, and helpful! We all swapped stories of where we were headed and why we were on the journey, and offered each other tips about possible alternative routes. Good conversations arose about upcoming family celebrations of Passover and Holy Week. We helped each other watch luggage, and saved places in line while the parents could walk around with kids whose patience was less than even ours. We cheered when one of us got good news of a re-booked flight, and patted shoulders when one, like myself, got the somber news that the trip was not to be. We New Yorkers offered hospitality to the unfortunate folks from out of town who would have to spend the night desperate for a plane the next day.
Maybe I’m reading too much into all this, but we had become a “temporary community!” We were the better off because we stuck together, encouraged one another, shared the joy of a rescheduled flight, and commiserated when one of us was told we were not able to get out.
Out of the disappointment, frustration and setback, hope kept us going, and company of those going through the same experience was solace.
So, there was a bit of Good Friday at LaGuardia. In fact, the man behind me—who I discovered had once been a seminarian in St. Paul, Minn.—even compared our snail-like pace to the counter with the Stations of the Cross!
Yet, there was a bit of Easter in the air as well, as we wouldn’t lose hope, assisted each other, smiled rather than cursed, and rejoiced with the ones who got to fly out.
Seems to me that headache of a long morning was a snapshot of life. We’re all on a journey, from God, back to God. On the trip, we experience a lot of adversity and heartache, but, with the grace and mercy of God, and with the community of those making the pilgrimage with us—for us, the Church—we get through.
Jesus sets the pattern, as usual. This Holy Week began with a journey, His into Jerusalem, on Palm Sunday. On Holy Thursday, He made a trip again, for His Agony in the Garden, after His Last Supper. Then came the excruciating Way of the Cross to the Hill of Calvary.
For a while, He had the companionship of His apostles, but they fled— except for St. John—making His Passion more of a heartbreak.
But His Sorrowful Mother, His Beloved Disciple, the faithful women at the Cross, Veronica, Simon of Cyrene, St. Dismas the Good Thief, even the centurion who ended up confessing his faith in Jesus as he expired—all kept Him company.
Most of all, His Father was with Him, and was in charge of the entire journey. “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit!”
And it all came to a glorious, triumphant conclusion Easter morning!
Jesus tells us the trip is worth it, even when there are flight cancellations and disrupted plans, as long as we never lose hope, keep patient, help and encourage our fellow travelers, and keep the goal—eternal life with Him!—ever in mind!