Fr. Larry Lewis gave our community a Lenten day of reflection based on the "Empty Tomb." This theme took on particular meaning for Larry back in the 1990s when a priest preached on his experience of peering into his growing anxieties and saw nothing. The emptiness of our hearts and lives may be frightening and present us the temptation to fill them with something, anything.
On this feast of the Annunciation we contemplate God emptying himself to become human.
We are not comfortable with peering into our own emptiness. Many people turn to various addictions to take away the pain of our emptiness.
When personal tragedies strike, us or our loved ones, we often can find no appropriate words yet the silence taunts us.
Lent invites us to gaze into the empty tomb, representing all we once held as meaningful, good and holy. We must sit with our uneasiness.
Larry once asked the Chinese whom he was teaching what they thought of when they saw an image of the crucified Christ. One man replied, "A loss of face." Face is a very important concept among Asian peoples. What does it mean that the Son ofGod willingly suffered this terrible loss of face for us?
Larry recounted meeting women who were trying to get away from situations of abuse and prostitution. One woman had a terrible history of abuse. She andLarry became friends. They lost contact but after 20 years she contacted with him again. On his 25th anniversary she was among the guests. Larry's mother asked him, "After 25 years of being a priest, are you happy?" Maria, the woman, indicated the circle of friends who remained after the meal and said, "This, this talking together with friends, this is happiness."
The stark emptiness and darkness of the church on Good Friday and Holy Saturday symbolizes our existential emptiness.
There is a certain freedom in accepting our emptiness. It may not feel as good as the dopamine squirt we get from alcohol or various addictions, but it is longer lasting.
Moments of failure, disappointments, confusion, fear and sorrow are all part of the human experience and we do ourselves an injustice by avoiding or disguising our darker moments. These can be very fruitful moments precisely because they are painful.