Several years ago I attended the memorial service of a colleague who had died. We went around the room for a time of sharing. One of my colleagues, when it came his turn, said, “I will miss her, but I will see her again.” I’d heard that sentiment on similar occasions and often dismissed it as a platitude. But something about it struck me differently this time. Perhaps it was his manner, his confidence, or the statement’s hopefulness even though nothing about the situation seemed particularly hopeful.
As I sat through the rest of the service, I started thinking about the Resurrection — an event I tend to take for granted and only focus on once a year. My Christian upbringing and my education had equipped me to think about it abstractly, and I was still very much in my head about it. However, after hearing, “I will miss her, but I will see her again,” I started to pay attention to the ways the hope of resurrection changed the people around me and the ways it changed me. I started to see how it changed that moment of grieving and how we experienced the tragedy of our colleague’s death. We were gathered to grieve but also to remind each other of our hope. I could also perceive the change beyond the sanctuary’s walls, out in the world. Resurrection was no longer only an event that happened two thousand years ago but a very tangible reality that continues to transform me and the world around me. Everywhere I looked there was sadness and pain. And everywhere I looked there were also signs of hope.
I will miss her, but I will see her again. Though the statement didn’t take away my grief, it changed my response. It reminded me that sometimes things are bad — really bad — and that’s not the end. Grief is ongoing but so is hope, and the two can — and often do — exist in us at the same time. Even when I don’t feel hopeful, hope persists.
More than the moment in history that changed everything, Resurrection is our reality. It’s the moment that changes us. It is the hope that dwells in us. I love that some aspects of hope remain mysterious and leave me awestruck in much the same way that I imagine it did those who encountered Jesus after his death. For me Resurrection hope is a different kind of hope than what I experience in my day-to-day life. Resurrection hope transcends my emotions and anything I might be feeling at any point in time. Sometimes I feel very hopeful. Sometimes I don’t feel any hope at all. But the hope is still there in the deepest grief and sharpest pain, and I have it whether or not I actually feel it right now. And nothing can take it away.
After Jesus is crucified, we find Mary Magdalene and the other Mary sitting in front of the tomb (see Matt. 27:61). It’s a wonderful image and one that I can relate to having myself sat in front of several tombs — literal and figurative. The sense of finality is overwhelming, the moment almost too much to bear. Then, a few verses later, the earthquake. And the angel says to them, “Tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and . . . he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him” (Matt. 28:7, NRSV). The story continues: “They left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples” (v. 8). As we begin to turn our attention toward the season of Pentecost, I think this is a good scene to end on: the two Marys running to share the news of Jesus’ resurrection. They were joyful though they hadn’t yet set seen Jesus. They only had the assurance that they would. I understand their fear. With regard to my own losses, wounds that won’t seem to heal, or impossible situations, there is always fear. But Resurrection hope means there can also be joy. And many days, that is enough for me.
Questions for Reflection
1. When has it been most difficult for you to be hopeful? What signs of hope do you see around you today?
2. What does it mean to you to live in joy and hope? Name three small ways that you can live in joy and hope in the days ahead.
3. Read Matthew 28. What do you notice in the narrative that you have not noticed before? Had you been among those to see Jesus after his resurrection, what do you think that experience would have been like?