By Garrett FitzGerald
Holy Saturday, 2012
A few years ago, I was privileged to join several of my colleagues from the Harvard Divinity School on a human rights fact-finding trip to Honduras. The country had been shaken some six months before by a coup d'état, and the situation, for many, remained desperate.
The stories we heard during our time in Honduras haunt me still. Stories of murder committed with impunity, of systematic rape used as a weapon to silence a resistance movement comprised mostly of women, of the targeting of the nation's prominent LGBTQ leaders for assassination, of hands shattered by police batons to ease the process of identifying protestors, of property destroyed by arson to make way for foreign developers, of a world seemingly beyond the reach and the hope of justice.
But despite the black despair with which one might expect to meet such conditions, hope - hope for a better world, hope for true peace, hope for justice - remained.
As Holy Week draws to a close, I can imagine no greater analog to the pain and the hope shown us in Honduras - and felt so keenly by all those who labor for justice in this world - than the shock, the aching, gnawing despair, that must have marked the Saturday after Jesus' death for his earliest followers.
Our own Holy Weeks end with the sure promise of Easter Sunday, the glorious fulfillment of a promise made to a broken world. We know that the altar will not have to remain bare for long. We know that the story does not end with the sealed tomb, and that death does not have the final word.
But on that Saturday, the friends, family, and early followers of Jesus had no such assurances. Everything they had believed, everything they had worked for, everything they had risked their very lives to achieve must have seemed in that moment, on that endless, agonizing Saturday, to hang in the balance. And in a world still so full of suffering, it can be so, so difficult not to give in to that same sense of loss and despair.
Time contracts, time expands. Easter Sunday will come and go, but Good Friday has not yet ended. The cross remains occupied, even as we continue to sit with the anguish and uncertainty of our own interminable Holy Saturday. The scandal of Christ crucified everywhere persists in the pain and suffering of our sisters and brothers the world over, and we stand mute witness to the crucifixion of our planet itself, victim to our greed and indifference. The presence is the promise, but what if the presence cannot bear the wounds of this world after all? The light, we fear, is leaving us.
But in the darkest depths of our own Saturday moment, we find still shining the pinprick of hope, our own longing for the fulfillment of a promise whose name we dare not even breathe, for fear that its own audacious weight might snuff it out forever.
Carmen Manuela del Cid, a feminist theologian and community organizer from Honduras' industrial capital of San Pedro Sula, confided to our group during a visit that is was this promise, the promise of a world redeemed in God's own time, that sustained her. The government is armed with guns, with batons, with the weapons and tools of repression and fear. "But we," she told us, "are armed with Utopia."
The dream of a world made anew, of the advent of the Kingdom of God, of a promise fulfilled, sustains us and provides us the anvil against which we continue to hammer the injustices of the present. For us, for now, true justice, true peace, and the true promise of Easter Sunday remain a horizon deferred. But the power of the promise remains.
For all those who labor for justice in this world, God bless you, keep you, and sustain you through the darkness of your Saturday moments.