By Msgr. Joseph P. Calise
LUCY KIRKWOOD’S play, “The Children,” recently closed on Broadway. Although personally I would not call it “entertaining,” it was one of the most thought- and conversation-provoking productions I have seen.
I was immediately intrigued by the set. The house was obviously dilapidated and seemed to be built on an incline. It was clear that there was some kind of destruction. As the play unfolds, the audience comes to learn that its inhabitants are retired nuclear engineers who are living just on the outskirts of the power plant where recent events have been responsible for the damage. The couple seems rather content living on yoga and yogurt until a friend comes to visit. Although the interpersonal dialogue among the three could be subject matter for a dramatic series in itself, the real reason for her visit becomes the central theme of the piece.
The situation at the power plant is still dangerous. However, there are several young people working there anyway because it has to be serviced. The visitor’s plan is to volunteer to work at the plant so that she can free one of the younger people from its potential hazards and enable him to safely raise a family away from the dangers of nuclear waste. As a matter of fact, her quest is to convince as many people over age 65 to join her so that as many of the younger people at the plant as possible could be released.
Having been born in 1954 myself, I joined her friends when they asked why someone 65 or older should be considered more expendable than someone in their 20s or 30s. As soon as her theory was made known, the tone of the play, and the audience, became quietly reflective. The simple theme, of course, was the value of human life – all human life.
On Easter Sunday we celebrate Christ’s triumph over death and the opening of the Gates of Heaven so that new life can be offered to all. He is revealed as the Victorious Lamb Who defeats the powers of sin and death. If He is Lord over death, then He is Lord over life, and it is in this day that all life finds its meaning.
Gospel accounts of Christ on Holy Thursday and Good Friday clearly portray the reality of Jesus’ humanity. We sense His loneliness, are moved by His loving service to His brothers, witness His agony and hear Him cry out to the Father. He dies. But He endures until He triumphs. He accepts all for a greater purpose. And as He predicted throughout His teaching mission, it is after He is raised from the dead that so much makes sense in hindsight. The meaning of His humanity becomes more evident in the revelation of His divinity.
The 16th verse of the third chapter of St. John’s Gospel is arguably the best-known verse in all the New Testament: “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son so that those who believe in Him might not perish but will have eternal life.”
If in the Resurrection of Christ the meaning of His humanity is revealed, then our response to the call to follow Him to a place in the kingdom reveals the meaning of our humanity.
I am not going to presume to resolve the challenge of the play, but only suggest that the answer lie not in the sacrifice being made, but in the inspiration of the sacrifice. If it is motivated by the feeling that age diminishes importance, then it is simply wrong. If, however, it is a willingness to sacrifice for another, then the argument can be made that it is virtuous as an act of love. If it is a lament for the meaninglessness of life, it serves no purpose; if it is an imitation of Christ’s Calvary, it is salvific. By His opening the Gates of Heaven, Christ revealed the meaning of His earthly mission and offered entering those gates as our mission.
To wish one another a Happy Easter is to express our hope that those we love will acknowledge the power of the Risen Christ as Lord over life here and now so to be able, one day, to share in the fullness of His power as Lord over eternal life.
May the joy and grace of this day be with us here and hereafter.
Readings for Easter Sunday, The Resurrection of The Lord
Acts 10: 34a, 37-43
Psalm 118: 1-2, 6-17, 22-23
Colossians 3: 1-4 or
1 Corinthians 5: 6b-8
John 20: 1-9 or Mark 16: 1-7 or
Luke 24: 13-35
Msgr. Calise is the pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka and Transfiguration parish, Maspeth.