The journey of Easter is the journey of transformation. It’s the journey of letting go and dying to the old and being born anew. And it sounds like such a fabulous thing, like “Tahdah! I’m born anew!” But if you fully embrace the Easter process, if you really engage in it with your body, mind and soul, it gets a little messy. It gets a little painful, and sometimes it gets a lot painful, because you are being asked to let go of what you know.
You’re being asked to let go of what might be comfortable for you. You’re being asked to let go and be in a boat floating down a river, probably with no idea where it may be going! Often you may not even be able to see where it’s going. But that’s what the Easter journey is about – surrendering and being transformed. We know that when we let go and we trust that we are on this journey of being born anew, that we are born into a greater expression of joy, a greater expression of love, a greater expression of you.
But Easter isn’t just one time during the year. Yes, there’s six weeks of Lent and then Holy Week, but that isn’t just Easter. Easter is really all year round because we are always engaged in letting go of what does not serve us and stepping into the unknown and trusting. And the process to do that is through surrender. We have to surrender, it can’t be avoided. We have to move from that acorn self into that oak tree. And that’s what Easter’s about.
The Process of Letting Go
Surrender is not this outer idea of capitulation, of holding on to whatever you believe in and thinking, “But I’m comfortable with this, this works, I know this!” Surrender is not just letting go, like keeping your teeth clenched and saying, “Okay, I let go.” It’s not that outer giving in. Truly, surrender is an inner opening. We go within and we open the inner sanctuary, and when we open the inner we engage the heart, and open ourselves to wisdom. And from that place of wisdom, every action we take is done with courage and done with strength and we are a greater expression of the Christ.
Surrendering is a powerful, spiritual practice and its one that every spiritual master has engaged in, has embraced, and embodied. We know this about Jesus as well. He surrendered to an inner opening. And when he did that, he came from a place of courage, from a place of strength, and you know what? He become this powerful force for humanity. The same is true for you and I, we become a powerful force for humanity.
We tend to think of Easter as a solitary journey, “my” personal transformation, “my” crucifixion, “my” resurrection. But you know what, I’m not a solitary being. I don’t live a solitary life. I need you, I live with you, I belong to you and with you. And the same is true in my Easter process. As I let go and resurrect my mind from the dark to the light, I’ve got to have some help along the way.
Many people who are not Catholics may not be familiar with Veronica, who is a woman from the time of Jesus. She’s not in the canonical gospels, but she was written about in other scriptures that aren’t among the Bible writings. She was part of the procession as Jesus was carrying his cross. Most of us know about Simon, he stepped out of the crowd to help Jesus carry his cross. But Veronica stepped out of the crowd and wiped Jesus’ face. Jesus is carrying his cross, he’s falling, he’s in pain, he’s suffering, and she steps out and simply wipes his face of the sweat.
But I had forgotten about her until recently. I was in Chicago helping to take care of my cousin, Janine, who was dying of cancer. It was particularly hard for me because we were the same age and alike in so many ways. Her illness touched my own mortality and fears. Janine was a very faithful woman, a devout Catholic who practiced her faith, and up until the day she died, she embodied the best of what being Catholic means.
During my visit, we had to admit Janine into the hospital. She was in unbearable pain, and if you’ve ever been with someone in excruciating, intolerable pain, you know you can’t take it away. All you can do is be present to it. So I surrendered. I had to surrender to that inner opening. As she was laying there in the hospital bed, her frail body wracked with unspeakable pain, she cried out, “Somebody please take this pain away, I can’t do this anymore!” I surrendered, to be that powerful force for humanity.
She wanted something to drink and wasn’t allowed any water, so I gave her one of those little lollipop sponges soaked in water. She put it in her mouth and she looked at me and said, “You know, this might be a little bit arrogant, but this reminds me of the story of Veronica and Jesus.”
It took me a moment to realize she was equating herself to Jesus, and was hesitant to do so. I looked at her and I whispered softly into her ear, “Oh, honey, no. That’s not arrogant at all. Your journey is every bit as important as Jesus’. Your life is every bit as important. My life is every bit as important. We are each unique expressions of the divine, just like Jesus, and we each carry a cross.” I was silent for a long time, as I watched the pain subside from her face. And then it occurred to me – I was being Veronica. I had stepped out from the crowd and wiped her face, moistened her lips as she carried this cross of cancer. We didn’t know where this journey was leading, where this boat was going to, but as I surrendered, I was being Veronica.
What is your role?
Are you being Veronica for someone in your life? Who in your life is in the middle of an Easter process, and how are you wiping their face? Every day we meet people that are in an Easter process, that are dying to something old and being born to something new. Sometimes it’s physically dying, and we can see the Easter journey, other times it’s not so easy to notice.
What I know about my life, is that I can’t do it alone. I need Veronicas in my life. I need Simons in my life. So my two questions for you today are Who are you being Veronica or Simon for? and Who are you allowing to be Simon or Veronica for you? How often do you let someone into your most vulnerable places inside and allow them to carry your cross, maybe wipe your face or moisten your lips. We so often talk about Easter as being this solitary event I do all by myself, but you we don’t.
This Easter I invite you to be more conscious, to be more aware of Veronica. And in doing that, in surrendering, moving into that inner opening and wiping somebody’s face, you will become a powerful force for humanity. You’re a light unto the world. And isn’t that why we’re here—to light the world?