In the meantime
I’ve read of an eleven-year-old girl standing in line to receive communion this past Easter Sunday. For her upcoming birthday, she wanted jeans and a tee shirt, but that won’t be. She died in that communion line right there in her church as one of over three hundred and twenty people who were killed by bombs set off on the morning of one of Christianity’s most holy days.
I don’t want to talk about retaliation, public safety, or the hard things that are happening right now in Sri Lanka, including the suspects in the bombings. I want to talk about that young girl. Her name was Sneha Savindi Fernando.
There is not much I know about Fernando, save for what I read about her in a New York Times article written by Jeffrey Gettleman and Dharisha Bastians. But I do know this. She was the age of the middle school Sunday school students I teach each Sunday. In life, and now in death, she did the most beautiful act—she stood in line to experience Jesus.
I don’t have a degree in politics, terrorism, or what makes a mind and soul become so violent that mass death becomes a goal. But I go to Jesus who made his goal clear while he was here. This itinerant preacher, this upstart from the wrong town with no familial credentials except that he was from the Davidic line, wants us to know a couple of things in times like this: we can experience living water, and death has no sting to those who know him by name.
Fernando knew his name. And death didn’t win.
I don’t know what she was thinking of in that line. Maybe her thoughts were of fun she’d like to have after Mass. Maybe she was dressed in her Easter best and felt just right. Maybe she was “just going through the motions.” Maybe she knew she was in the space of the holiest of holies and she unquestionably that the divine, her Jesus, was right with her the entire time.
I know what I’m thinking, and it’s this. She made it. She made it home. She made it through her country’s mess which sounds like a lot of the mess we experience here in the United States when it comes to mad, misguided people who have figured out how to destroy not one life, but far too many lives.
In my sorrow for the loss of this girl who had not yet become a teenager, I realize yet again that, like those before us (and I’m talking many millennia here), we are living in the mean time.
It is a mean time. Mean things happen—horribly bad things happen—to us as we wait in line to meet Jesus. This realization isn’t new. But when we are ready to learn from him, Jesus makes all things new, including the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Too many of us focus on war-like thinking when Jesus gently calls us to do the opposite, which is love.
Fernando won. She’s home. She came to the table of Jesus Christ and met him there. Kudos to her and all who find peace not in the pieces of the world, but in the company of the only Savior we have. His blood and broken body, which he speaks of during the Last Supper, saves all sinners who call on him.
I am very sorry this young one is no longer with us. She has indeed taught us a great deal about life and faith.
Her loss here hurts, but with the spark that I am certain lit her eyes, her lesson remains. While we do not know how much time we have here, we do know what she’s taught us. There is an open invitation to stand where she did, and that is at the table to meet Jesus.
This blog first appeared as my column in The Susquehanna Independent on May 1, 2019.