I’m absolutely pathetic at being sneaky. One look at my face or a careful listen to my voice is usually enough for the people who know me best to tell whether I’m planning something. As far as I can remember, I’ve only ever pulled off one major surprise on a family member.
My sister was graduating from high school during my first year as a Jesuit, and after some careful (and nefarious?) planning with my mom and my superior, I sadly let my sister know that I wasn’t going to be able to make it home for her graduation. She was gracious about the whole thing, but it was evident she was disappointed. The surprise was on.
The morning of her graduation, I dragged myself out of bed hours before sunrise, poured enough caffeine into my system to keep me vertical and alert, and managed to time the five hour drive so that I arrived while my sister was at her graduation rehearsal. After half-terrifying my unsuspecting dad (“What are you doing here!?) and my other two siblings, all that was left to do was to sit and wait. Half an hour went by, and then an hour, and finally I heard her car door slam.
As she stepped into the house she started, incomprehension written all over her features. The next thing I knew, I’d had the wind knocked out of me. My sister had hurled herself into me with a tackle of which Sean Payton’s New Orleans Saints would be proud. We cried and we laughed. It was as purely joyful a moment as I’ve ever experienced.
It can be hard for me to “get” the Resurrection. If I ever have trouble imagining Christmas all I have to do is remember friends and family members holding a newborn, their joy not quite hidden behind their tired eyes. Likewise with something like the Last Supper, there I can reach back in my memories of special meals enjoyed with dear friends in order to let the mystery in just a little deeper.
The Resurrection is just a bit different though. I don’t have the slightest idea what it looks like when a person to rises from the dead let alone what it feels like, and while the joy of Easter liturgies is infectious, I still find the mystery of Jesus rising from the grave to be just a little hard to touch.
But I do know what human love is. I do know what it’s like to surprise my sister with a totally unexpected reunion and to have my whole family grin and laugh until it hurts. And maybe when I’m faced with a mystery that I can’t quite wrap my mind around, that simple, ordinary, human love is a decent place to start.