(The UCU Standard – March 19 – April 5, 2015)
MUKONO, UGANDA ✦ As a boy I hoped for, and believed in, small and foolish things that at the time seemed big and sensible enough. Now I hope for things that are big and sensible enough to my children, even if I think they’re small and foolish to me.
Once I hoped for rabbits to go to heaven. (And who is to say they don’t?) This was after a neighbour accidentally killed our pet rabbit. The young boy discovered that, unlike cats, a rabbit doesn’t land on its feet when you spin it in the air.
Hannah, our adopted Ugandan child, owned that rabbit. She wasn’t there. My young son, Jonathan, was. He summarized it with plain precision when he said ‘I knew it was dead and there was nothing that anyone could do to change that.’
We buried the young rabbit – it didn’t have a name yet – behind our UCU home before we sang and read the Word and let Hannah pray, ‘Dear Jesus, please take care of my rabbit.’
So we hoped that foolish hope, as foolish, I suppose, as Easter itself: Easter, when fools of the best kind and fools of any age turn their back on the wisdom of the world and say, no, death, you won’t have the final word on all this. Forgiveness will. Mystery will too. Yes, mystery.
For example, what exactly happened when those bodies rose from opened graves during that violent Good Friday earthquake? Can you imagine Pius, your dearly-departed husband buried years ago returning to sit at the dining table and ask what might be for supper?
And what exactly might have happened to the appearance of the resurrected Christ? At the tomb, Mary thought he was the gardener. The two gentlemen on the road to Emmaus thought he was just a fellow traveller.
When he cooked a fish breakfast on an open fire, when he was, according to Saint John’s account, hungry enough to eat some of it (something a ghost would never do), Christ also appeared somehow different to his disciples, yet still all knew who he was.
Children can forgive easily enough and Hannah was no exception when she quickly forgave our neighbour. She forgave him easier than he forgave himself. “Just shoot me now!” is what the boy had yelled when running from that dead rabbit.
Peter found it hard to forgive himself too. Peter, that man of largeness who, while standing outside of Jesus’ kangaroo trial, denied he even knew the man. Three times. Three denials. Some friend.
Then, later, at that fish breakfast, that question that ripped into Peter, so awful yet gentle. “Do you love me?” Jesus asked. Then again, “Do you love me?” And again, “Do you love me?” Three times so Peter’s forgiveness was unique to him in size and measure, so when Jesus commissioned Peter – three times – Peter could go with all he needed.
On Easter morning, with the monkeys often clanking around our tin-roofed house, I like to read the story of that beachside breakfast to my three children. I hope they remember it as much as they remember Hannah’s rabbit. Even more.
Because sooner or later each of my children, like any of us, will need to extend great, even foolish, forgiveness to someone. Even as any of us needs to be forgiven. Forgiveness. If it’s the real deal, it will cost you everything you have. And even that won’t be enough.
Easter says as much. This is where that Mystery enters: that Dead-Man-Walking, that Dead- Man-Eating, that God-Man who cries, and laughs with us too, as he looks into the eyes of those who are his and says, “Come and follow me to the ends of the earth. And then some.”
Only a real fool wouldn’t go.