Have you ever noticed that before something gets renovated or rebuilt, or, for that matter, built from the ground up, that there is a lot of deconstruction, mud and chaos in the interim? As an example of this, a new, state-of-the-art, HVAC system is presently being installed at the U.S. Leadership Offices and retreat center of the Sisters of Bon Secours. Wires are hanging from the ceiling, ceiling panels are out, exposing all kinds of mechanical processes in the ceiling I never knew were there, and we have temporarily had our offices relocated. Once this construction has been completed, things will be even better here than before—but we must endure this “tear down” before the accomplishment of what is to be “built up.” It seems that, here at Bon Secours, much of our present environment must come apart and we must endure a period of uprootedness before being resettled in our “promised land” of climate-controlled working space.
Similarly, the house next door to ours, abandoned for the past 4 years, is about to be renovated. It will be great to see that house up to its potential again, and inhabited by new neighbors, but in the meantime we will have to endure a construction project right outside our back patio door. Things will look a lot worse before they look a lot better, and our household will lose some peace and privacy until the anticipated restoration is completed.
As we celebrate the Easter season, I reflect on the connection of the construction sites in my life with the work of Jesus in each of our hearts and souls. The events of what we now call Holy Week I’m sure did not feel, after the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, very holy for the participants 2,000 years ago, as they played out in real time. They were, in fact, a massive deconstruction of what everyone around Jesus hoped and expected, and they must have felt very chaotic and destructive to Jesus himself, as he endured pain and rejection beyond measure. Yet, Easter morning arose and, beyond all expectation, Jesus had in secret undergone a transformation that resulted in the greatest restoration work ever accomplished—that of the whole creation. What this means is mystery to me—it is too rich and too deep to be understood, intellectually. But I have experienced this restoration within my own life, through gifts of love, forgiveness, mercy, hope, new beginnings, and deepened joy and wonder at unseen realities that permeate the world in which we live.
Did it have to be this way? I don’t know…but it is how events played out in salvation history. Throughout the Bible we see a similar pattern played out in Israel’s history, as they alternately experienced exile and restoration, time and time again.
In nature we witness the new life of Spring coming after the long, cold death of winter. Everything gets buried for a while, especially if you live in northern climes, and then green life miraculously pops out gloriously all over again. Grace builds on nature, and we have this transformation to witness each year, just around the time we celebrate Easter and celebrate spiritual rebirth.
It’s as if, in order to emerge in new and creative patterns, all creation must go through a total reorganization of what has gone before, experienced as chaos and mess, before a new and more beautiful order emerges from the disintegration of what has passed. Jesus was a builder and carpenter, by the way, so he had practice being a master builder before his public ministry even began! I figure he knew what was necessary to create something new: digging foundations, chopping, cutting and carving wood, wood shavings and pieces of stone on the ground, noise and mess, all before the final product was unveiled. Good food for thought this Easter, as we think about what God has done (and is doing) in each of our lives, and when we witness contractors busily plying their trade here and there in our communities.