(picture attached is in the bulletin this weekend)
Anybody seen the Lord of the Rings? There’s a scene at the end when the mountain is exploding and they’re stuck on a rock in the middle of a bunch of flowing lava. The scene is utterly hopeless – they are beyond saving. Frodo says to Sam, “It’s good to be with you, here at the end of all things.”
The end of all things… as hopeless as it gets. That’s surely how the disciples were feeling after the terrifying turn of events on Friday. They had put all of their hope into one man, Jesus – but he’d been tortured and killed. With his death, their hope died. With his death, they themselves feared for their lives. This was the end of all things. Hope was lost.
In our own lives, every one of us goes through times like that: Times of hopelessness. We see no way to fix our broken marriage, get out of debt, fix our son or daughter who has made bad choices, bring back the health of a loved one… or ever feel “alive” again after the death of a family member. Like the apostles, every bit of our hope seems washed away – nailed to that cross.
In our recent trip to Haiti, we saw LOTS of reasons for hopelessness: Crumbling infrastructure, intermittent electricity, no sewers, unclean water, corruption, deforestation, 80% unemployment, the list goes on. It would be easy to just walk away… write it off… give up…
But, there’s something we can learn from the people of Haiti. Look in your bulletin on the next to last page – there is a picture of a building in Haiti. What do you see?
I know, it’s not a great picture and it’s hard to see in this bulletin – but this is a typical building in a city. Many families start out with a hut made of sticks and mud. When they get a little bit of money, they’ll dig a foundation and start building a concrete building. There are concrete buildings EVERY where you look – at least in the cities. Some are done, but many are in various stages of construction… in fact, it’s hard to tell whether they are half-built or half-destroyed. But there’s one thing every building has in common… notice the rebar sticking out of the roof. Rebar is a ¾” rod of metal that goes inside of concrete to give it strength. Almost every building you see has rebar sticking out of it. At first, I thought they must not have the right tools to cut it off – but it was explained to me that whenever you get enough money to build even just a little bit, you build what you can. Every time you build a wall or a roof, you let the rebar stick out so that WHEN you get enough money, you can build on. So the rebar sticking out of this school in the picture I interpret as a sign of hope! It means – tomorrow will be a better day – hope is still alive. As long as there is hope, even someone in Haiti has a reason to go on living.
That’s what Easter is for us as Christians. Regardless of how hopeless our lives seem, the empty tomb is a sign of hope – the empty tomb is like a piece of rebar sticking out… it means God is not done yet. He plans to keep building.
He starts with a firm foundation… Every Easter we renew our baptismal promises. When we were baptized, God poured a foundation in our lives. This foundation is a big Rock… our Rock of faith. Note that just being baptized doesn’t make us a good Christian… it is just the foundation. God leaves the rebar sticking out of that foundation so that He can continue to build on us. Think about when you pour concrete, you have to make a form with boards and have the rebar running inside – so when the concrete is poured into the form, it doesn’t run all over the place. The forms hold it in place until it can harden. As long as the concrete has the right mixture and the rebar is in place, the wall will be strong and virtually indestructible.
God continually pours His grace into our lives – every moment of every day. How we live is what forms us. Every time we follow Jesus’ example, we are forming ourselves into the shape of Jesus. If we fail to live as Jesus showed us, then all that Grace flows right out of us and is wasted.
But that’s part of the good news – no matter how we have lived our lives in the past, God continues to pour His grace and Divine Mercy into our lives – and if we simply start forming our lives to be like Jesus, God will build us up. (Look at Peter – he denied Jesus three times, but instead of despairing, he allowed Divine Mercy to build him into our first Pope. Even Judas could have been saved if he had allowed God’s Mercy to form him.) Every one of us has a piece of rebar sticking out of our heads…. Because God ain’t done with us yet. No matter how hopeless our life feels, this is NOT the end of all things
... God will roll the stone away and build on top of it.