Saturday people

Michael A. Kelly C.Ss.R

Fr. Michael KellyFr. Michael A. Kelly, is a Redemptorist priest. He did his doctoral studies in Boston, MA, United States. He is both lecturer and postgraduate coordinator at Yarra Theological Union, Box Hill, Melbourne, Australia.  He is Chair of the Academic Board of the Melbourne College of Divinity, and for the last eleven years he has maintained a weekend ministry in the parish of Holy Family in Mt. Waverley, Melbourne.

Someone I know once said, “Christians are Saturday people.” He wasn’t talking about our love of the weekend but rather about the fact that we live between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. In our lives each of us knows something of the pain and sorrow of Good Friday, but we also know something of the joy and hope of Easter Sunday.

Being a ‘Saturday people’ means that we know and have experienced both the difficult and the joyful in our lives

The Good Friday experiences are abundant, and we only have to look to the media to hear of nations at war, natural disasters, carnage on the roads and tragic loss of life. In balancing the Good Friday experiences, the Easter Sunday experiences are of people who respond positively to tragedies such as Black Saturday, the tsunamis, and the Haitian earthquake. The Easter Sunday experiences are also about when people gather to celebrate a family occasion such as a birthday or an anniversary, when students graduate and when people are celebrated for lives well lived. Being a “Saturday people” means that we know and have experienced both the difficult and the joyful in our lives. We could easily be depressed if our lives were replete with Good Friday experiences, but just as easily we would be deluded if our lives were a constant cycle of Easter celebration.

It is the reality of the risen Lord that enables us to live lives of hope in the midst of often difficult situations. As we feel somewhat overwhelmed by the scale of global adversity, we can sympathise with the flight of the apostles and a desire to screen ourselves from reality. We can also empathise with those same apostles as they came, through the news of the Magdalen, to a dawning hope that all was not lost. A hope that would in the Pentecostal moment give them a new Spirit and courage to proclaim news that was good for all peoples.

Hope means a refusal to rage against adversity

If hopeful optimism is not to be seen as a denial of reality it needs to be considerate of the reality of tragedy. It will inevitably be a see-saw between polar opposites, but the person of faith will weigh the balance on the side of Easter hope. However, what does Easter hope mean in the context of the early decades of the twenty-first-century after a century that gave us two World Wars, the Shoah, and innumerable conflicts?

Hope, in this context, means a refusal to rage against adversity or to insulate oneself from the reality of the pain that is present in our world. It means a feeling with and for those who suffer. It means a re-sensing of our feelings so that those who suffer are not mere statistics. It means developing our capacity to be with them not only in sympathy but also in genuine solidarity. It means asking ourselves what we can do to support those who are living the Good Fridays of our contemporary context. Aid is one answer, physical presence is another, the organisation of support groups is an appropriate strategy and prayer is yet another important response.

Our hope can be resourced as we become aware of the manifold ways in which generous people respond individually and collectively to adversity. However, hope is not only a response to the Good Fridays of life, but it is also a choice, in a world of choices, to be a person who looks on the bright side. A person who sees, not the glass half empty, but the glass half full. A person who is prepared to meet, share, pray and celebrate with others who are hopeful for hope is a virtue that is difficult to sustain without the support of others.

The risen Lord has gone before us and he invites us all to a share in the fullness of the kingdom

The Saturday person is one who has a memory of those times when life was good and who is willing to travel through difficult times in the hope of finding another such experience. This is what I have sometimes called the oasis experience of life. There is a lot of sand in the desert, but from time to time one encounters an oasis and it is a time of refreshment and replenishment, but life is not lived solely at oases and the journey goes on through the wind and sand, but the journey continues with the memory of an oasis and the hope of encountering another. Both memory and hope sustain the pilgrim and the Saturday person knows, perhaps better than most, that the risen Lord has gone before us and invites us all to a share in the fullness of the kingdom which is the ultimate vision of hope.