We are still, liturgically, in the Easter season. We still hear the wonderful phrase at Mass: Overcome with Paschal joy!
So now that we’ve come through Lent, the sacred Triduum and Easter, has anything changed?
If we are thoughtful people, in love with God, we can’t be the same as we were last February before Lent began. Is there anything different in how we perceive Christ now?
Christ seemed to change for his disciples after his death and resurrection. Or rather, was it their ability to perceive Christ that changed? Consider these post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus:
- Mary Magdalene thought he was the gardener.
- The Emmaus disciples saw only a fellow traveler.
- The disciples fishing on the Sea of Galilee heard a stranger calling out to them from the shore.
In each situation, the disciples were given a subtle hint, a reminder that served as a wake-up call: the memory of a special time with the Lord; a moment of intimate friendship recalled by the divine Voice speaking to them once again. He was not recognized until . . .
- Mary heard him say her name.
- He broke bread with the Emmaus disciples.
- He called to his disciples to cast their nets one more time.
What does this have to do with us?
For the most part, we have become a ho-hum people. Easter is politely observed as a feast day, but we can hardly grasp the truth of this most extravagant of mysteries.
Belief almost descends into a platitude that we casually recite in the Creed every Sunday. For that matter, almost all that we hear on Sundays falls on ears that have become over-familiar with the sound of Scripture. The newness and wonder of Easter has, for many, been buried in new clothes and chocolate.
Surely, arriving at a kind of tepid faith is not why Jesus came, died, and was resurrected. Hopefully, as we celebrate this season annually, a light is switched on, a spark within us ignited. A seed planted deep within our spiritual ground (close to being forgotten) suddenly sprouts as the waters of faith revive it. How can we find that spark of belief, that flood of understanding, that fire of trust? We need to be awakened by the light of the Paschal candle, our thirst satisfied by the Easter waters. Such symbols and metaphors have been given to help teach us the reality of the living Christ. St. Paul tells us that we Christians are poor indeed if we do not believe in the Resurrection. Nonetheless, Easter presents me with so many questions about how the Resurrection of Christ affects my life.
- Why did Christ come?
- Why was he executed?
- How did Christ’s life and Resurrection change the disciples?
- How has Christ’s life and Resurrection changed history?
- Mostly, how has it changed me?
These are questions that are most often answered by platitudes, answers that have been fed to us without our understanding, without moving us, answers that we in turn parrot to others, answers that do nothing to change how we live and interact with the Christ in others. And I certainly can’t pretend to answer them for you personally when I can barely approach them myself.
Of course the disciples couldn’t recognize Jesus! Don’t you think he would have looked different? After all, his humanity had been totally deformed by torture — unpleasant as it may be to think of — and then totally re-formed through the miracle of his resurrection.
But most of all, what this tells me is about the ever-changing yet always the same face of God and how he re-reveals himself to us each time we seek to know him in prayer and study. Each year our liturgy brings us back to the same situation, the same Scriptures, the same rituals. If we have grown, if we open our eyes and ears, these “same” things differ from year to year. We are invited to deeper understanding and consequently to greater love and admiration. This is part of God’s making all things new, just as Jesus told his disciples about the kingdom of heaven: “Every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” (Matthew 13:52) Though we read and hear the same stories over and over, we are continually enabled to find something new within the familiar.
The important thing is to put our questions to the only One who knows the answers. We have so many pat answers and certitude about so many things that we risk losing a sense of wonder in the face of an infinite Being. In the delusion of having figured everything out, we remain locked within that spiritual cave-tomb, never knowing the resurrection that makes all things new. Instead, we can look forward to an eternity of ever-increasing amazement .
Every year Easter can present us with a new understanding of what our life is about, what it is for. First, ask the questions. Next, listen for the answers with the “ears of your heart” that remain open to the wonder of Christ’s existence on this earth.
Behold, I Make All Things New!