Monday, April 1, 2013

Proclaim the Risen Christ--"My Lord and my God"!

Caravaggio's "Incredulity of Thomas"

We all "get" Good Friday.  One way or another, being human means that betrayal and abandonment, pain and death will eventually come our way.  St. Thomas certainly "got" Good Friday; he witnessed the suffering and torture of Innocence itself, and he experienced the crushing of Hope.
And we all know that Holy Saturday follows Good Friday.  That is, there seems to be only silence--the tomb seems to have triumphed.  It feels like Evil stands victorious once again, Life loses again, and Death has the last laugh.  Again.  St. Thomas definitely knew what it meant to be crushed and devastated and despondent.
But the question is whether we let ourselves "get to" the Resurrection.  In other words, do we allow ourselves to stay stuck on Holy Saturday, or do we open ourselves to the surprise and wonder of Easter Sunday?  We live in times defined by the shadow of Holy Saturday.  Profound suffering is all around us and perhaps even threatens to swallow us personally.  There seem to be no answers, only questions, and so we look for ways to ease the pain.  We get tempted to reduce reality to what we can see and touch.  We start to live by materialistic mottoes and self-centered slogans:   "Life is hard, so I need to make myself as 'happy' as I can be"; "Life is about the 'survival of the fittest,' so whoever has the most toys wins"; "God is dead, so let's eat, drink and be merry while we can."  Without a doubt, St. Thomas felt such meaninglessness and emptiness.
But then the dawn of Easter Sunday breaks upon our weary world:  People experience Christ risen from the dead!  People encounter him, suddenly and unexpectedly.  He speaks words of reassurance ("Peace be with you"; "Do not be afraid").  He appears in disguised form (a stranger on the road; a gardener?!).  He calls people by name ("Mary!").  He shows them his unbloodied wounds, they grab onto his glorified and risen feet, and he eats with them.  Then he departs as suddenly as he had appeared. 
Like the Apostles and the first witnesses of the early Church, we are forced to ask whether we will allow ourselves to have the "eyes to see"?  Like St. Thomas, we need to ask whether we desire the grace to realize when we are actually encountering the Risen Lord in our daily lives.  Since Jesus is risen as He said, we simply need to open ourselves to the possibility that the sufferings, deaths, and cold tombs of our daily lives are not the end of the story.  We simply need to open ourselves to the Presence of a God who longs to mysteriously transform all of our awful Fridays and seemingly silent Saturdays.  We need to embrace the mystery of the Resurrection.
In his Urbi et Orbi blessing on Easter Sunday ("To the city and to the world"), Pope Francis reflected on this mystery:  "What does it mean that Jesus is risen? It means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom. God's love can do this.  This same love out of which the Son of God became man and followed the way of humility and self-giving to the very end, down to hell—to the abyss of separation from God—this same merciful love has flooded Jesus' dead body with light and transfigured it; has made it pass into eternal life. Jesus did not return to his former life, to an earthly life, but entered into the glorious life of God and He entered there with our humanity, opening us to a future of hope.”

The glory of the Resurrection shines forth in Christ's risen body.  He is able to meet us in and through other people we encounter--particularly the "least"--suddenly and unexpectedly.  He is able to welcome and console and call us by name in and through his sacramental body on earth, the Church.  He is able "to make those desert places in our hearts bloom" especially through the sacred mysteries he established, the Sacraments, and above all under the appearance of bread and wine transfigured through consecration during the celebration of the Mass.

Even as the Risen Lord awaits our proclamation of faith, "My Lord and my God," He encourages us with this great Easter beatitude: "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed" (Jn 21:29)!  These words of consolation and commendation are for those of us who learn to see the Risen Lord in the people and events and sacred mysteries of our daily life.
May the Peace of Christ fill your hearts this Easter season,
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