This week, Holy Week, as we anticipate gathering with loved ones and celebrating Easter Sunday, the most important day of the liturgical year, I want to take the occasion to share with you how God often reveals Himself to us unexpectedly in everyday life.
For the past seven years, I’ve gone to the same barber on Lawrence Avenue, about two miles from St. Robert Bellarmine Parish, where I celebrate daily and weekend Mass. What first attracted my notice about the barbershop was its big red sign that read “Haircuts for men and women–$5.”
I am a sucker for a bargain and a risk-taker.
More than anything, taking risks requires that we surrender certainty and place our trust in the unknown, the unexpected, in the hope that we may ultimately learn, grow, or benefit in some way by the outcome.
The barbershop is run by a family who truly risked much in fleeing Syria during the persecution of Christians and seeking a new life in the U.S. The proprietor who cuts my hair is named George. Not only is George a good barber but also a great human being. Over the years George and I have become friends. And every four weeks or so, as I’ve sat in that barber chair and George and I have shared conversation and stories of our life experiences, I believe we have learned a lot from one another. I know I certainly have been enriched just by listening to George tell me about his life.
Recently I went to see George for a haircut in preparation for Easter. (A haircut at George’s, by the way, now cost $7! George is learning quickly about how to succeed in business).
As I sat down in the chair, conversing with George, a young man entered the shop. I figured his age to be around 19 years old, particularly because of the youthful energy with which he came bounding through the door. While I had never seen this young man before, he was evidently a regular, as George greeted him by his name, Eddie. George was clearly delighted to see Eddie as Eddie was to see George.
Now there were three of us in the shop as George worked on my haircut and shave. Almost instantly, Eddie’s energy and outgoing personality had filled the room. He was animated and seemed larger than life as he engaged George in enthusiastic conversation. I thought it wise to remind Eddie that I preferred that George didn’t get distracted as he worked a straight razor along my neck!
As George was wrapping things up with me, I turned to Eddie and asked, “Just curious, Eddie. What do you do? Are you in school?”
I didn’t know anything about Eddie, and he didn’t know anything about me either. He certainly had no idea I was a priest, as I was dressed in flannel and khakis at the time. To Eddie, I was just a fellow customer in George’s shop, and perhaps he could have asked me the same question.
But instead, he responded loudly and with some obvious pride, “I start a new job tomorrow!”
I congratulated him and asked what he was going to be doing. His response was equally enthusiastic. He told me he just completed a masters in social work at Loyola University. Again I congratulated him, to which he replied “Have you ever heard of a place called Mercy Home for Boys & Girls?”
I bit my tongue and hid my surprise as best I could.
“No, Eddie, I’ve never heard of it,” I said. “Tell me what are you going to do there.”
Eddie said he had just been hired as a youth care worker in Daley Home, working with our young men from afternoons to late at night, and I listened as he told me all about Mercy Home for Boys & Girls. So as I was in George’s shop preparing myself in one small way for Easter, Eddie was there preparing himself for his first day at Mercy Home.
I congratulated Eddie one last time and wished him success in his new job. I should have advised him to expect the unexpected at his new job. But instead, I simply settled up with George and went on my way.
When Eddie showed up in the HR office the next day to fill out his paperwork, I made a point of putting on my full clerics and going up to greet him and welcome him to Mercy Home. As I walked into the HR office, Eddie did a double-take—no, a triple take!
He looked and I confess that I can’t repeat the word he uttered in surprise. But it was a wonderful and funny moment for me, anyway. And I’m happy to report Eddie is in fact doing very well in Daley Home and truly loves his work.
Who would have guessed! The unexpected surprises that give us joy. That teach us something. That make our lives better in some way.
Eddie, a young man filled with life and hope joining our Mercy Home family to bring life and hope to the young men and women in our care.
Christ’s death and resurrection, which we celebrate during this holy time, is about bringing life and hope and love to all of us. God’s word made flesh. God’s love enters the world as a humble carpenter named Jesus. The Son’s entire mission is to proclaim God’s love to each of us and to show us how life can be lived to the fullest, even in the smallest moments of every day.
During Holy Week we reflect on His love and recall His celebration of the last supper. We listen to the Lord as He teaches us how to be true disciples and servants of one another by washing the feet of His friends. We walk with the Lord as He enters the garden, is seized, scourged, crowned with thorns, mocked and spat upon. We walk with the Lord on the way to Calgary as He carries the cross and invites us to witness His crucifixion and death. And we are asked to behold the word of the cross on which hangs the Savior of the world. The Savior does the will of the Father out of love for us.
But that’s not the end of the story. While foretold by the prophets and anticipated by believers, the unexpected transforms the entire world. The crucified is raised from the dead by the power of Love. God shatters the darkness and brings life and hope and Love to all of our lives.
I hope that you and your loved ones enjoy a very happy Easter celebration. And I hope that God finds you in countless unexpected ways.