Last year when the pandemic was just beginning, mine and Haley’s baby cat, Al, died. He was the first creature that I was solely responsible for and he died sick and helpless in my arms. Meanwhile, friends and strangers alike began to die all across the world to an invisible disease that was ravaging our lives. We, collectively, had to face grief head on.
During a spike in the pandemic and a few weeks after Al died, I realized that I was experiencing not just a profound sadness but also a deep-seated fear. Fear of what was happening in the world, but more personally, a fear of love and a fear of agency. I had opened myself up to love, to commitment, to responsibility, and had lost a precious thing without any sense of fairness. Similarly, people all across the country were experiencing this same feeling collectively, as loved ones were taken too early from this earthly life by a virus. For me, this fear was different than a typical broken-heartedness after a break-up or lamenting a broken friendship. Instead, it was this constant nagging of how it felt impossible to open myself up to love when it would inevitably end in grief, in fear, in death.
I’m in a class this semester on the Gospel of Luke. We were told by our professor to read Luke every day and to let its themes, structure, and theology seep into us. One thing that I’ve noticed during my close reading is the connection between the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaims and physical and emotional healing. When Jesus calls the twelve together in Luke 9, he tells them to “proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” and Luke recounts that the disciples departed, “bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.” Later, when Luke sends out 70 others, Jesus tells the appointed to “cure the sick who are there and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” Even when John the Baptist sends his disciples to see what Jesus is all about, Jesus responds by saying to go and tell John not what Jesus was teaching but that “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleaned, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.” There is, it seems, a deep, intrinsic connection between this kingdom that Jesus can’t quit talking about and healing and curing.
I keep coming back to this connection when I think about the pain we have experienced as a people, collectively, and in our bones, individually. Our pain comes from a fear that to love in this world means to be broken and in need of healing, eventually. And we’re fearful we will never receive that wholeness.
The good news is that the Kingdom of God is a kingdom of healing, of restoration, of oneness. Not brokenness, instability, and division. The story of Jesus of Nazareth does not end with death on a Roman cross. It does not end in systemic injustice winning. It does not end on Good Friday.
It “ends” on Sunday morning. It ends in healing. Healing of relationships, of creation, of us. An invitation to love fully because death does not have the final word.
When despair grows in me, when the act of opening oneself up to love seems like too daunting of a task and an act to be dreaded, I cling to the promise of healing. To the promise that the Kingdom of God that is both already and not yet, inbreaking and expected, in our midst and on the horizon, is a kingdom where tears will be wiped away as the God makes all things new.
So we must sit with Good Friday. We must face our pain and our brokenness. We must lament, cry out, and wrestle in the dark night of the soul. We must never skip Friday and Saturday and go straight to Sunday. But we also must never let our fear and our grief become ultimate. We must yearn for the resurrected Christ and his promise of healing that awaits us Sunday at sunrise.