Monday, April 17, 2017

"Then the other disciple also went in..."

"and he saw and believed." (Jn 20:8)


Christ is risen; truly he is risen!

Can you name how and when you really knew that Christ is risen? Was it a gradual process, a flash of insight, or a quiet confidence that welled up in your soul--slowly and then all of a sudden?

It is a helpful Easter exercise to identify some of the most memorable times that we have encountered the Risen Lord throughout our earthly pilgrimages. Has he spoken deep into your heart through a favorite Scripture passage, or filled you with love through his Holy Eucharist?  Have you glimpsed his face in the disturbing disguise of the poor, or heard his voice through someone when you least expected it?

Here's a true story of one of my flashes of awareness that Jesus Christ continues to make all things new...


Seven years ago this June, my father lay on a hospital bed in the family room of my parents' home. His ten-year battle with cancer was coming to a close, and our family had rallied around my mom for the journey through his final days.

There had been many false bottoms along the way--dramatic declines followed by small rebounds--but the hospice aides had reassured us that death was near.  Still, it seemed like the final days moved by very slowly.

June 18, 2010 was a beautiful summer day. Most of my parents' eighteen grandchildren were at the house, and the gang decided to take a break from the bed-side vigil for a quick swim at a friend's nearby pool. My oldest son and I decided to shoot home, take care of some chores and get cleaned up.

A strange cloudburst blew out of nowhere and chased the swimmers back to the house. After everyone dried off, my sister suggested that the bundled energy of the group be directed toward a family Rosary. As they gathered around my dad in his hospital bed and prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries, someone noticed Papa Doug open his eyes. He whispered, "Ok"--after days of not having spoken--and then breathed his last breath.

Meanwhile, my son and I got the call back at our house.  I was not happy, to say the least; angry not to have been there, to be sure.  Questions of regret and self-reproach welled up: Why had I left the house?  How did I manage not to be there, after so many days and weeks of waiting?

At least they were praying the Rosary when he died, I thought to myself as we sped across town. When we walked through the front door into the family room, it was bedlam. Everyone was sobbing; kids were hugging each other, consoling my mother, and laying their hands and heads upon my father's forehead and chest.

My sister later told me that, as I walked through the room hugging everyone, the smile on my face was stunning. I knew I was smiling, and I couldn't make myself stop. It welled up from deep within.

It was shocking and disturbing: Why was I walking around smiling? Why wasn't I crying like everyone else?  I cried later, of course. But in that moment I was not feeling happy, and yet I was definitely joyful. Filled with joy, and surprised by joy.

Later, after much prayer and reflection, a helpful passage from Pope Francis put me on a path toward understanding this experience:

"I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life,
especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes,
but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that,
when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved." (EG, n. 6)

In retrospect, I realized that I had been filled with joy not just because I believed in the resurrection of the dead and knew my father was going home to God, but because I knew that Christ is risen. Indeed, when I walked into the room, I was overcome by the outpouring of love and I knew Christ was present among us.

I saw and believed.

This Easter, let's train our eyes to really see--and believe--such moments of pure love for what they are.  Let's look back at the times we have encountered the gift of unconditional love at various points of our lives, and let's appreciate anew the mysterious presence of Christ who is risen.

Jesus the Christ has trampled on death and continues to deliver the fullness of love which we all desire--here, now and forever.  Alleluia, indeed :)