By Rev. SHELLEY McVEA
Holy Week. Unholy week. The seven days leading up to Easter are celebrated in the Christian tradition as the most sacred of times.
Church services, pageants, Biblical re-enactments all highlight the story of the death and resurrection of the one we call the son of God. But when one looks at the actual events I sometimes think that they smack more of unholiness than its opposite. Betrayal, cowardliness, fear, denial, and violence seem to rule the day. It is disheartening. Is this really who we are?
But surely we have progressed in the last two millennium. All it takes, however, is to open a newspaper or go online to see that this is not the case. A terrible accident fells Notre Dame. The Mueller report comes out. A journalist is shot in Ireland. More than 250 people are murdered at Easter services in Sri Lanka. It is all so disheartening. Is this really who we still are? Unholiness seems to have holiness beat.
It’s only when I go a bit deeper and linger a bit longer that I am once again encouraged.
Whether it is a story of natural disaster or of calculated destruction, there is always a smaller story. A vignette of decency, compassion, and assistance. In the Biblical story, a rich man donates his burial site for Jesus. Women prepare spices for the body. John adopts Mary as his mother. Even Judas the betrayer immediately regrets his treachery. Peter the denier goes out and weeps bitterly.
Maybe Fred Rogers’ advice is still applicable. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,” Rogers said to his television neighbours, “my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Sometimes the stories are buried on the back page, or do not show up online for days or weeks. But they are there if I look.
Recently we have seen firefighters risking their lives (as they always do) to save Notre Dame and its treasures. Millionaires are already pledging vast amounts of money to help in the rebuilding.
In P.E.I. political campaigning is halted just before an election by all parties when a candidate dies in an accident. Special services and remembrances are held in Toronto for Sri Lanka victims of violence.
In the Beach, flowers and remembrances are placed in front of our friend’s convenience store to encourage his wife and children. People write letters, they send online messages to people they’ve never met when they hear stories of pain and suffering. I believe that in our hearts many of us do see that “we’re all in this together”.
If we all do our tiny part, maybe a miracle of grace and mercy will take place.
Our philosophers and theologians have been telling us this all along – but it is hard to believe when we see the enormity of the pain.
My little helping hand seems too small to matter. But this last week can bring us encouragement. The Jesus story ended not in a tomb but in the miracle of new life.
So many of the treasures of Notre Dame were saved by a human chain. Individual hand by individual hand, piece by piece, a priceless heritage was rescued. This miracle took place not after the fire has extinguished but in the midst of the blaze.
We don’t often get to choose what kind of week we are going to have; cool and peaceful, or filled with fiery pain. We wish and work for the first kind. But we often find ourselves in the second. If that’s the case, then let’s help each other become part of that human chain that can bring a miracle out of the blaze.
The more of us involved the greater the number of treasures that can be saved — be they people, beautiful objects, the environment, or our civic discourse.
If we don’t know where to start, maybe we can take Fred Rogers’ advice: Look for the helpers. They’re always there. Join them and be one too.
So whatever kind of week you’re in right now – holy, or unholy – may you come into it as a helper and companion, ready to see where a miracle might occur.
Rev. Shelley McVea is the priest-in-charge at St. Saviour’s Anglican Church located at 43 Kimberley Ave. Services are at 10:30 a.m. every Sunday. Visit www.stsaviours.ca or www.facebook.com/churchwithreddoor for more info.