by Msgr. Joseph P. Calise
I can still remember how excited I was in the mid-1960s when my family bought our first color television set. “Gilligan’s Island” was the first show we watched in color.
Prior to that, our only knowledge of color TV was a piece of multi-colored plastic that could be applied to the screen. Those colors didn’t make sense, but they were a relief from the drab of black and white. The contrast between black and white and color played an important role in my favorite movie, “The Wizard of Oz.”
The film begins with the presentation of Dorothy as an unhappy young girl who wishes she could live somewhere over the rainbow. Of course, it is a challenge to imagine this place because a rainbow is colorful, but the film at this point, is black and white.
Caught Between Fear and Awe
Caught up in a tornado, Dorothy sees all her worries fly by from her bedroom window until she feels the house land with a thump. She grabs her companion, her dog Toto, and reluctantly goes to the door. As she opens the door, we see a world of color. The contrast between the dark of the house and the world of color outside caused the audience to feel the same fear and awe that Dorothy felt. There was security staying inside, but this world of color was inviting.
She grabbed Toto and said, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore. We must be over the rainbow!”
Hearing the sounds and giggles of creatures she would soon meet as the Munchkins, she was intrigued and frightened. Soon the Good Witch, Glinda, appears and at her advice Dorothy began her journey to self discovery by following the yellow brick road. Each step, from scarecrow to tin man, and cowardly lion to flying monkeys and a wizard, brought its own trepidation and fascination.
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles in today’s liturgy, the Apostles are joined together in the upper room. Jesus has already ascended to heaven and left them with the promise that an Advocate would come. This Advocate they will soon come to know as the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. They know something is going to happen and they must have been both frightened and excited. They lived from their calling through the crucifixion to the Resurrection; the burial to the Ascension.What could possibly be next?
From the first moment they encountered Jesus and began following Him, their lives could not be the same. They embarked on a journey with Christ that changed the very essence of who they were and how they thought. They came to believe that this life was not all there is and came to understand hope in a brand new way, having as its goal, not power and prestige in this world, but salvation and peace in a world to come.
Yet, this message of great joy was not easy. Christ’s power was demonstrated through suffering. As excited as they were about the truth they came to learn regarding Jesus’ divinity, they knew the road to follow Him would also be difficult. But Jesus promised them that their grief would become joy because He was going before them to prepare them a place, and they would see Him again. Their journey was to follow this promise so that just as Jesus’ suffering eventually led to the resurrection, so too their suffering would lead to the kingdom.
Suffering for their faith would only increase their faith. Many times when we reflect on the sufferings of life, we remember the lessons learned more profoundly than the pain. Pain passes but the lessons endure.
Dorothy’s road had many frightening moments, but ultimately it brought her back to the world of black and white. But now it did not seem so drab because she saw it in a new light. Her experiences over the rainbow taught her that there is no place like home with those you love.
Suffering and Joy Ahead
The Apostles will soon be filled with the power of the Spirit and begin their journeys to many lands. Suffering and hardship await them, but so too does the joy of accomplishing the work that Christ gave them to do just as He accomplished the will of His Father.
Today is a new day in each of our journeys. Facing it may be frightening or awesome. It might even be both at the same time. But if, at the end of the day, it brings us closer to Christ and His kingdom, it will have been a good day well lived.
Readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter
Acts 1: 12-14
Psalm 27: 1, 4, 7-8
1 Peter 4: 13-16
John 17: 1-11A
Msgr. Calise is the pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka and Transfiguration parish, Maspeth.