My preparations for Easter this year have a unique dimension; I am planning the route for a visit to my father's wartime past in Holland, a route that I will begin Easter weekend.
I have been looking through old papers and photographs, reading books, talking to people in Holland who are the children of men he knew there, researching the museums and memorials for the ones that hold the most significance.
Consequently, I have been thinking of him a lot. He enlisted in 1940, barely 20 years old, smart but poorly educated, motivated by the usual things that caused the young men of his generation to respond to the call for soldiers in that conflict.
'He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.'
In February 1945, he found himself on the border of Holland and Germany at the front lines of the last push that culminated in the defeat of Nazism.
He was lieutenant in a tank corps, slogging through the mud for long days with little sleep and no beds. He would have known by then how high the stakes were in their drive for victory. He would by then have already lost many comrades; he would have already been put to the test in perseverance, in leadership, in his values.
The memory of the day they arrived at a concentration camp stayed forever with him, fueling all the more his determination to keep going.
His story has come alive for me not because his story is exceptional, but because it is his story. It was, in some way, his way of the cross. It was a time in his life where he had to pick up his cross and carry it to the limits of his strength.
Others were watching and depending on him to live it well and it was not just for his own sake that he would have pressed into that work as he did. As I said, it is only his story, we each have our own; and we each have our own chapters in life that are particularly difficult, that contain remarkable challenges and require from us our very best.
We must, as Dad did, rely on our preparation, rely on our fellow sojourners, and discover within ourselves both our best and our worst as we face difficulties and respond to what is before us.
The Way of the Cross we remember on Passion Sunday is unique and cannot find parallel in the life of any person.
We walk that way in memory and imagination with Jesus, acutely conscious of the redemptive power of his suffering. Yet we each have our own cross, our own road to walk, our own journey of suffering that accomplishes within us the transformation to death to self and resurrection in Jesus that is our goal.
It is good to remember those who have walked some of their way with courage and perseverance; and to embrace anew our own cross, our own journey with both its suffering and hardship and the joy of resurrection.
(Kathleen Giffin firstname.lastname@example.org)