Each month we offer a prayerful reflection about Vincentian life. We hope these words help you to find Christ more deeply in your service.
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Confronting the Immovable Stone (Easter Season 2012)
“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him. Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large. On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.”
The stone that closed off Jesus’ tomb was no pebble. Mark describes it as “very large.” Matthew describes it as “huge”—not to mention being sealed and protected by guards. So how silly and naïve these disciples must have looked, buying expensive spices only to run into an almost literal brick wall. It was a fool’s errand. Even they began to doubt: “Who will roll back the stone for us?”
Many of us in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul can relate. I want to anoint Christ today in my neighbors in need, but then I think of the immovable boulders in my way: the size and complexity of the problems, the limits of my time and resources, the seemingly vast difference between me and the families and individuals I want to serve. Why even bother? My attempts will seem silly and futile.
I’m eager to help when I can see a clear solution for someone, when I can tell it will be an open-and-closed case. I’m much less eager when a situation seems hopeless and I don’t immediately know how to make it otherwise, when I can’t see a clear exit strategy. I don’t want to be left standing in front of a tomb and explaining to someone inside that I can’t remove the stone that keeps them trapped. Give me the home visit that’s just a simple clothing voucher request. The family whose rent would require cobbling together assistance from multiple sources, which I’m not even confident we could get? I think I’ll pass.
Not the women in Mark’s gospel. Their desire was to anoint Jesus in the tomb—no matter that access seemed impossible. These disciples simply began with the first steps, doing what they could at the moment and not letting future challenges prevent them from getting started.
And when they arrived at the tomb, the stone had been rolled back. Our doubts don’t account for the Resurrection.
How often is this the Vincentian experience! As we draw near to neighbors who are in overwhelming situations, God amazes us with signs of new life. Sometimes the modest assistance we offer is in fact the boost that enables a family to reach stability. Other times their problems remain despite our help, but somehow in our visit they and we both find a surprising hope, even within the tomb. Either way, seeing these signs of Easter life would not have been possible if we had given up before even starting.
Jesus, during this Easter season, please deepen my desire to anoint You in the person of my neighbor. May this desire burn so bright and my faith in the Resurrection grow so strong that no fear of future obstacles prevent me from offering what I can to those who are struggling.
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