On my desk at the national office is a piece of tile from someone’s floor. That may seem like a strange thing, but for me it is an important symbol of Easter’s faith and hope, and I know I will never forget its meaning.
In October 2012, I had the privilege of visiting Japan for the 100th anniversary of the diocese of Chubu. A significant part of that visit was to travel to a portion of the land that had been overwhelmed with water in the Tsunami of March 2011. There are three things that are still vivid in my mind about that visit.
The first was what I learned of a young kindergarten teacher who started her work day as usual but at a quarter to three that afternoon the tsunami hit and the kindergarten, far too close to the coast, was engulfed. The teacher did all she could to save the children in her care. She carried eleven of the twenty through the raging waters, up the stairs – likely two at a time, to higher ground from where they were rescued. But the waters were fast – so much faster than her and, before she had time to save them all, the floods had filled the classroom. Later, when the terror and fury of the tsunami subsided, the body of the kindergarten teacher was found. She was in the classroom with two small children held tightly in her arms, seven more close by.
My second memory was of walking over the devastated land and seeing that flowers had begun to bloom.
The third memory was meeting in a condemned Church building to pray with a small group of elderly people. The parish was on top of a hill and although severely damaged had provided sanctuary to people of all faiths. The extraordinary faith of the community of St John’s, where they had no homes and very little of life’s comforts was displayed so wonderfully when all they wanted to do was to pray. If that isn’t Easter and what new life and hope is about I don’t know what is.
The tile from the unknown person’s floor continues to remind me of these gracious people whose faith is so alive in the midst of pain and anxiety.
In the resurrection we have God’s promise that life is stronger than death, that love is greater than hate, that mercy overcomes judgement and that all sufferings and difficulties of this life are real and sometimes painful, but they do not have the last word and do not represent the final reality.
Fear and joy, despair and hope, doubt and faith; these are the two sides of our lives in this world. But in the end we have heard the resurrection promise that joy, hope and faith will ultimately prevail.
I know that group of elderly people in Japan believe that.
My prayer this Easter is that your hearts and souls will be filled with that belief, which we so deeply need in our lives.