My grandfather was a retired navy officer when he died, so we held his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. We were greeted at the gates by armed guards. Taps played while my grandfather’s ashes were put into a horse-drawn casket. An American flag was folded and presented to my grandmother. At the funeral we saw how the military gives meaning even to death, shape even to destruction, and an idealistic aura to aggression.
In the poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front,” Wendell Berry’s mad farmer warns against the love of “the quick profit, the annual raise, vacation with pay,” a life which makes one “afraid to know your neighbors and to die.” Instead, the mad farmer exhorts us, “Every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
When I was in kindergarten, one of my favorite activities was “What’s in the box?” The teacher cut a hand-sized hole in a box and placed a mystery object inside. You could reach in the box, smell the box, shake the box—everything but open it. Each one of us would take a turn guessing the right answer. “It’s kind of fuzzy.” “Is it a teddy bear?”
Even if we’ve set out on the Lenten pilgrimage on Ash Wednesday and taken every step in penitence and prayer, we are still not prepared for the arrival. Neither were those who joined Jesus in Galilee and made their way up to Jerusalem. For many it was an annual pilgrimage, but in one particular year, the pilgrimage was a once-in-a-lifetime experience because it was made in the company of Jesus of Nazareth.
Despite confusion about the ending of this Gospel, Mark's Easter account is full of Good News. To disciples who had abandoned him and to Peter who had denied him, Jesus' word was, "I will meet you in Galilee. There we began together; there we will begin anew."