Sunday, March 23, 2008

Maria in the Morning

It was very early in the morning, in the town where I grew up. I was there not long ago to give a mission in my home parish and was staying in the rectory. I woke early each morning and headed downstairs to write at the large dining room table.

On my first morning there, I was writing and heard the back door open. It was before sunrise. After a few minutes passed, I heard the shuffling of grocery bags. It was Maria, the cook. I had met her the day before. She is from Poland. She started to sing, very softly, a Polish song and I can still hear the sweet rise and fall of her voice. I liked the melody but could not understand a word of it. In the stillness of that morning, everything seemed raised in an atmosphere of joy to her singing. It was not long before I could hear the birds outside and they, too, were welcoming the morning with their melodic choruses. I was there for five or six mornings and Maria sang her way through every one of them.

I do not understand why that memory seems singled out for me. I had a lot of conversations with people those few days and saw people and places I had not seen in years. Yet, whenever I think back on the brief time I spent there, I may hold a while a memory of this or that place or person, but then there is Maria and her morning song.

One morning, she told me that she heard that I grew up there, but moved away. I told her yes, that I spent most of my youth in that town. “I come from far away, too,” she said. “But my home is here now. People are good here, too, like home. Are people good where you are? It is good to have good people. They make you home again.”

And so she spoke, and sang, and I remember her with a lot of affection but do not really understand why. She was like a gift each morning and when I was writing this, I felt badly that I did not tell her as much.

Our gospel this morning starts out with another early morning experience. It is strange – the last sentence tells us that the two disciples believed but did not understand. It is not clear as to whether they believed that the body was taken, or that Jesus had really risen. It is stated that they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

We know, we believe, that because of the Easter event on an early morning long ago, everything is different. We gather this morning, being offered a hope from God beyond what we can understand. We can only ponder the gift of eternal life given us through the risen Jesus and take it to heart – and to each other – as best we can. We will soon be asked to renew our promises to love God and each other. The prayers this morning voice our need to be refreshed, rekindled, with the love we need to know life and live it.

Maria spoke of goodness, and feeling at home, and she sang with joy every morning. She spoke of coming from far away and learning that goodness really makes a home.

The disciples were to gradually learn that the risen Jesus lived in them. He was their life and ours. There is no life apart from him. We may not understand that, as we may well not understand the enormity of this gift of life, eternal life. But it speaks to us everywhere and especially in the stillness of the morning, when we light a fire, and there is a song of joy, and all that is lastingly good from a far away place shines once again in the darkness. The gift of God’s love comes into us, making of us his home, making us good.

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