Good Zeal

Expectations, Great and Otherwise

Jesus is Laid in the Tomb painting by Rembrandt c.1635“What did you expect,” my friend asked me as I collapsed onto the sofa, the clutch of books and papers I had been carrying released into a jumbled heap beside me.

I had once again said ‘yes’ one too many times. This friend who knew me well chided me, kindly but firmly for taking on more than I could accomplish in the given time limit. Exhausted and depleted in every way, I conceded defeat. I saw this as my failure to live up to my own as well as other’s expectations.

Many of us can relate to this incident and, like me, see it as part of a persistent self-defeating pattern of behavior. Attempting for reasons good and noble to meet the expectations of others and ourselves can and does lead to many problems.

A debilitating insincerity with oneself and others can form over time. “Know thyself”, and “To thine own self be true” may be common maxims that bear repeated consideration. Forming a habit of intentionally ignoring the signs and signals from our bodies, our minds, and the spirit—both divine and human—leads to denial. Eventually, we find ourselves up against it, that wall that keeps us from going on as we think we must. Consider the breakdown in relationships that may result from seeking to live up to expectations, your own as well as others.’

In the final days and moments of his life on earth, Jesus faced the culmination of this phenomenon of meeting expectations. Remember the expectations and resultant reactions of Judas and the apostles as they watched their hopes come to a violent and unexpected end. All were in denial even as Jesus had tried telling them repeatedly what to expect.

The sword that pierced Mary’s heart cleaved expectations of both wonder and dread. The expectation of the tempters, judges, and the men who stripped, beat, and nailed Jesus to the cross—what did they find in having their expectations met? Consider the centurion whose expectation reverses from contempt to incredible awe, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

As Jesus met with betrayal, desertion, and denial all within the course of a few brutal hours the expectations of many plunged from an assumed victory and hope to utter despair and defeat. Each year we relive the expectation of that lost hope in the stripping of the altar, the stark silence, and the abysmal darkness of Holy Saturday. Many expected the end of the matter with the sealing of his tomb. However, three mornings later when expectations were overturned by his resurrection hope was eternally restored. What is our expectation now?

By Noel Poston, Oblate OSB

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