Media CenterCarolyn Woo's CNS Column: 'Easter Reminds Us of God’s Love in Our Darkest Moments'

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By Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
April 2013

Worse than suffering is suffering alone: abandonment. Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane felt utterly alone, and on the cross cried out to His father, asking why He had been abandoned. The Syrian refugees we serve ask why the world had left them in misery. Perhaps each person has had that moment of feeling completely on your own, dealing with disappointment, regrets, worries or shame so much bigger than you are.

Some face pain as if gripped in a vise from which there is no release. We have known the college student who runs out of funds for tuition; the parent who just got downsized from a job; the father who finds no place to turn to as he witnesses his daughter plunging into addiction; the spouse who is gripped with sorrow at the deterioration of a loved one; the business owner who cannot make payroll. Christ took on the most human experience and shared our deepest vulnerability when He, who was so loved by His Father, also gave in to the feeling of being forsaken.

Easter, to me, is the triumph over abandonment. God comes back from unspeakable agony to join us in life again; from having been at the right hand of God and at the gate of hell to proclaim mercy and hope to everyone, no one excluded! Indeed neither He nor we are abandoned despite what what we feel. For Christ comes back to claim us.

As God has claimed us, so we claim each other.

Ernesto, who grows beans and maize in Nicaragua, would panic and hide when he heard the sound of motorcycles approaching his small farm. Only the bank administrator can afford such a luxury so the sound meant he was coming to collect on the loan that Ernesto had no way of repaying. The money invested in growing his crops exceeded the prices he could fetch for harvest. Each year, the debt grew. Ernesto's farm would be foreclosed: he would lose the little plot of land which came to him from his father and forefathers; he would be a day laborer without a home to his name. He did not know what else he could do. He was following the planting practices passed down to him, used by all who lived around him. His only asset had become a liability that was pulling him into a deep hole.

Ernesto was recruited to join a program funded by USAID and implemented by CRS to enhance agricultural productivity through sustainable solutions aimed at elevating farmers above the subsistence level with its continuous crises. Ernesto received seeds to cultivate papaya, a cash crop which enjoys strong market demand, export potential and good prices. The seeds were accompanied by training on planting and irrigation methods. Technical advisors held regular meetings and made field visits to monitor and solve problems. Ernesto's first crop gave him a harvest that enabled him to buy seeds for the second round, pay interest on his loans, and support his family. His second crop freed him from the debt he owed.

Ernesto made successive improvements including building two greenhouses that allow seedlings to flourish before they are planted in the open field. The supply of premium soil for the greenhouses became a micro enterprise for women who collected cow dung to feed earthworms which in turn produced soil so rich that it coaxed baby plants into those that could bear red papaya pregnant with juicy flesh. Once he started learning, Ernesto could not stop. He was certified to perform tests on the crops to determine the right pesticides and fertilizers. He turned away the salesmen of such chemicals, telling them know that their products are oversold and harmful to his crops and environment. Ernesto's son just graduated from university as agricultural engineer and his daughter is about to obtain her degree as agronomist. Every sentence Ernesto spoke is punctuated with a thank you to God. As he has been blessed, he now blesses others by teaching farmers -- in groups of 25 -- to partake in God's abundance.

God does not leave us on our own; Easter is not just an event nor a season, but a love fest that permeates our daily lives.

Dr. Woo is president & CEO of Catholic Relief Services, the official overseas humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. This article is part of her ongoing monthly column, Our Global Family, written for Catholic News Service.

Read Dr. Woo's previous columns.