As we approach Easter this year, there are two touchstones in my mind that bring me back to when I first came to know Jesus. One is what has been called the “Greatest American Play.” Our Town, written by Thornton Wilder, tells the story of the fictional American small town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, between 1901 and 1913 through the everyday lives of its citizens. Its theme of how life passes so quickly, and people being unaware that they will soon join those who’ve gone before them gripped me then, and it grips me now. The play asks, in effect, what will remain of us, what will our lives have added up to, in the gaze of eternity? In Grover’s Corners we know it will not be anything grand, or out of the ordinary, for anybody. The play poses the question, that for all virtues and all vices, all successes and all failures, “what difference will Shakespeare or Napoleon have made, not to mention you and I?”
Our Town is my lifelong favorite play. (Somewhere over the past decade I mentioned that in an e-zine article here at St. Ignatius.) It is one of the tools God used to get me thinking about Him and my time here on earth way back in the early 70’s. It is best summed up by the play’s narrator, known as the Stage Manager:
“We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”
When I committed my life to Christ, I became profoundly aware of His Holy Spirit dwelling with me. The awareness of His very real and abiding presence is what changed everything in my life. As I came to experience His peace and felt Him near me, I knew that He would walk me through whatever would come into my life – and that He would lead me into eternal life after this life was over. As the Stage Manager said: “There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.” I had connected with the Eternal One – I had connected with Jesus.
On my first Easter as a follower of Christ, I stood on the mountain behind my parent’s house in Spokane, Washington at sunrise. Gathered with a group of high school friends, as the sun rose, we sang a song that was new then (and certainly new to me). That “new” song has become a classic – and as it did on my first Easter morning 49 years ago, it can still make me cry. My second touchstone this Easter week is the song “Because He Lives.” I usually share it on Facebook around Easter time. I share it with you again. Why? Because He lives!…and that has made ALL the difference in my life. Made my life worth living.
Happy Resurrection Week…and life…to you all. I’m grateful to walk out my life in Christ with you all here in our wonderful St. Ignatius Catholic Community.