Perhaps one of the most annoying experiences in life these days is being put “on hold.” We make a call to the pharmacy, or supermarket, or even our parish—and we are asked if we will hold for a moment. We count the minutes that seem like hours as our blood pressure and frustration rise. We whisper: “What a waste of my time!” When the mind-numbing muzak or commercial on the other end of the line fades, we wonder: “Is anyone on the other end of the line? Are you still there?”
For so many of us today, it seems that our lives are often “on hold.” Economic constraints mean that many will not be able to buy their own home, and are afraid of losing the one they have. We worry that we will not be able to hold on to our jobs. Those who have worked long and hard to enjoy their golden years must now continue to work while they put retirement on hold.
If we are fortunate enough to have work these days, we ask: How do I hold together all the demands of my work, family, friendships, and religious commitments? We wonder: If I have no work, how will I hold on to this house? How will I be able to get to work if I cannot hold on to this car? Then there is the gnawing uncertainty: How do I hold the members of this family together? How do I hold myself together when I often feel like I’m coming apart at the seams?
When so much of our life is put on hold, we begin to feel stuck in a never-ending cycle of monotonous waiting, a permanent holding pattern. Like those white-knuckle passengers in an airplane who grow more anxious as the pilot circles above a fog-laced airport in a holding pattern, our fears can escalate when we feel like we are holding on for dear life.
For many of us, our concluding Lent has helped us take a closer look at our own personal “holding pattern.” Holy Week and Easter vividly reminds us that the whole life, ministry, suffering, passion and dying of Jesus is one of self-giving, self-emptying. He does not cling, he does not grasp. Rather, he empties himself. His pattern of holding is one of non-holding, standing before his Father with nothing in his hands but the promise of unbounded joy.
Recently I was privileged to be in Washington, DC for the large Immigration Reform Rally. I was deeply impressed by some 200,000 people—most of them immigrants, documented and without documents—who themselves have been in a holding pattern. All are anxious to leave their holding pattern in the shadows, and to find a path forward to legal residency in our country. The stories are difficult—so many mixed families, some members of a family U.S. citizens, and some not. The danger of separation among family members keeps them in a holding pattern of fear.
At times such as these when we feel that life is on hold, it is all the more important than ever to hold on to what really matters. It is our hope in the Risen Christ that is alone worth holding on to. And learning his example of self-emptying makes us realize that we, like him, are held, all of us together, in a love beyond imagining.
On this feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ this year, let us pray for the grace and strength to move beyond our holding pattern and unite ourselves ever more fully and deeply in the risen life of him who has broken the bonds of fear, sin, and death!