My wife and I are excited to be expecting our first child in July. Two weeks ago, I realized that we hadn't intentionally sung to Peanut in utero yet, so I ran to get my guitar with great enthusiasm. (Probably too much enthusiasm -- I accidentally crunched a toe on our stationary bicycle as I ran by, and it's still a bit purple.)
So much of what's happening is happening for the first time: first ultrasound, first baby Facebook announcement, first Mom-and-Dad duet directed toward Mom's midsection.
There are plenty of my own interior firsts, too: first irrational child-related worry, first irrational moment of parental pride when the doctor told us the baby's heartbeat was strong.
This barrage of newness is just a glimmer of what we'll experience this summer, I'm sure. "It changes everything" is the most common thing I hear from veteran parents, usually spoken with equal parts awe and exhaustion. But even now, with our due date still months off, our child has changed what I'm thinking about and how I think about it.
I'm not surprised, then, that this Holy Week also seems like a first. I'm finding new meaning in some of the season's words and symbols.
Palm Sunday: "Rather, he emptied himself..."
The second reading proclaimed on Palm Sunday -- the canticle from St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians -- tells us so much about how God operates. Instead of using his omnipotence to pull off magic tricks like Jim Carrey does in "Bruce Almighty," Christ gave his power away "to the point of death." To love like Jesus loves is to give yourself away to others.
I'm getting the idea of self-gift in a new way this Holy Week as I watch my wife Genevieve's slow but steady physical transformation. She is literally giving herself to another person while also giving up comfort and alcohol and coffee on Peanut's behalf. The term "baby bump" had never struck me as rude and flip as it does now. What an incredible example of self-gift.
Holy Thursday: "He began to wash the disciples' feet..."
One thing about fatherhood I'm dreading is the diapers. I do not like the idea of changing diapers, and I recently heard that newborns go through 10 or 12 of them a day. Horrifying.
At our parish during the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, after the foot-washing scene from the Gospel of John's Last Supper is read, the pastor invites all attendees forward to have a foot washed and to wash another person's foot. It's an annual reminder of how repulsive human feet are. And feet in first-century Palestine were much worse. Jesus goes to the feet of his disciples, however, and washes them without hesitation or complaint. He cares for those he loves by getting down in the dirt with them. Will I be ready to love my son or daughter in a similarly uncomfortable way?
Good Friday: "I thirst."
Last weekend, Genevieve, her mom and I went to a Babies R Us to begin scouting things to include on a shower registry. There's so much stuff to buy and so many varieties of each item. When we got home, I started some online research. Which car seat is the safest? Which baby monitor is the most reliable? There's a protective impulse and latent fear at work here: Just tell me what to buy to assure our child will never get hurt or be sad and I'll fork over the cash.
My instinct to prevent Peanut from suffering is a good instinct. But on the flip side, life means suffering. We are bringing a new child into the world who will suffer no matter what. (He or she will also have incredible advantages, though, just by being born in the U.S.) I hope Genevieve and I have the courage to teach our children that they will suffer, but that with the thirsty, wounded Christ by their side, they won't suffer alone.
Easter Sunday: "He has been raised; he is not here."
One night recently, Genevieve grabbed my hand and planted it on her abdomen. "Feel that?" she asked. I did.
That first kick I felt was a clear sign that there was a life present that hadn't been there just a few months before. The magnificence of that "no life, then life" truth makes something like the Resurrection easier for me, a persistent skeptic of miracles, to believe in. Easter is possible.
[Mike Jordan Laskey is the director of Life & Justice Ministries for the diocese of Camden, N.J. He blogs for the Camden diocese at camdenlifejustice.wordpress.com.]
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