Wholly Weak (or A Sick Mother’s Reflections on Expectations)

This is a week of reversed expectations. Of hopes upheaved. Of dreams dashed, but then met beyond all telling.

I’ve been thinking about reversal of expectations this Holy Week. Parenting continually presents me with a reversal of my expectations, and the last few days have been no exception. You’d like to join the Palm Sunday procession? Nope, decides S., as he opts for a long morning nap and we’re late for Mass. You’d like to hear the Passion proclaimed or actually stay in the pew during the Eucharistic Prayer? Noooo, cries the fussy baby who would rather be nursed Right Then. You’d like to enter into the high holy days of the church year in a prayerful and meditative fashion? Nah, grins the baby whose sudden medical issues (along with your own nasty cough and cold) swoop in and bury your best spiritual intentions under a pile of used Kleenex.

My expectations for Holy Week have all been reversed. At first I told myself that’s just new parenthood. But I’ve begun to see a deeper lesson emerging here.

I realized that all of Holy Week is about a reversal of expectations. The disciples never expected their wise leader, their miracle-working healer, their peaceful teacher, to be strung up on a cross to die. The Jewish people never expected their savior and redeemer to be a nobody from Nazareth. Peter never expected to betray his best friend. Perhaps Jesus himself never expected that final trip up to Jerusalem to end up the way it did. (Think of his anguished prayers alone in the garden, so desperate in his plea to let-this-cup-pass-by that his sweat turned to blood.)

And certainly no one in their right mind expected him to show up again on Sunday morning.

Expectations are a tricky beast. We can’t live without them; our minds are continually shaping and reshaping them, reaching into the future, drawing from the past. We hope, we dream; we fear, we dread. All this is natural; it’s when we cling to our expectations that we can be disappointed. Because clinging to our own notions of what Should or Must Be usually means we’re less open to God’s notions of what Can or Will Be.

(Real-Time Writing Interruption: As I typed that last sentence, the cherub sitting next to me stopped playing and promptly spit up all over the futon. Which necessitated an immediate swoop-up to the bathroom to get him cleaned – since of course there was no burp cloth in sight! – and then a return to scrub the futon. Did I mention he also decided to stay up en lieu of falling back asleep after early-morning-nursing? And that F. was planning to get up early with him, if need be, not me?

Reversal of expectations. Thank you for hammering home the point with the proverbial 2×4, Lord.)

So all this thinking about reversed expectations this week led me to throw out all expectations for Triduum. I probably won’t make it to my favorite liturgy of the year, Easter Vigil, because an 8:00 pm start time spells disaster for an 8 month-old who needs bed by 7:15. I’ll inevitably miss a moving homily because I’m searching out a spare seat in a cry room to entertain Mr. Loudmouth. And all that quiet time for prayer I’ve enjoyed in Holy Weeks past? Well, every parent knows where that went.

But I decided all of that doesn’t really matter. Because Triduum will be transformative. Of this I am sure. It always is. Moving through the paschal mystery does such things: we suffer, we die, we rise to new life. We’d never expect it. But it happens every time.

And S. is here with us this year. That is all the transformation, all the new life, all the reversal of expectations that I need.

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