Easter surprises

Easter Sunday 2019

He is risen, alleluia! Happy Easter!

Easter Sunday: Resurrection. New life. Jesus who breathes, walks, touches, heals, reconciles, restores.

This Easter Sunday happens to coincide with the second anniversary of my stepdad’s death. My stepdad helped to raise me from a time when I was very young. If there were Facebook relationship statuses for parents and children, the post for my relationship with my stepdad could read: “It’s complicated.” Grieving his death is not something that I did once and then finished. Instead, understanding what the relationship meant, and what its joys and sorrows mean in the context of my life today, is an ongoing process—discerning where God calls to new life and where God calls us just to let go.

Jesus’ Resurrection is matters for us because it is not only a past historical event, but a continuing lived reality that exists in every time and place. St Paul promises us that the Resurrection of Christ is also a promise of our own Resurrection. But this is not only a future oriented hope for someday after we die. It is for our lives right now, too. God took on the patterns of every day human life— including loss, suffering, death, and grief— and God entered all the way into it and redeemed it, so that our lives and relationships could be transformed and healed.

Perhaps it is surprising that not only the Passion, but even the Resurrection can be difficult for us, because the Resurrection is no more under our own control than is the Passion! I am a bit of a control freak and especially when it comes to wanting to understand the way things are or what I ought to do. I like to exert intellectual control. But the Resurrection is not much like that. Instead the narratives show us a God who undoes all of that control. We meet a God who is insistent on surprising us with how and where new life appears. Pope Francis loves to speak of the “God of surprises,” and he is right.

Consider the women at the tomb who are surprised to find it empty, or Mary who is surprised to hear Jesus call out to her by name, where she thought there was only a gardener. Imagine how unexpected it was for Peter to be out fishing, returning to his life and practices before he became a friend to Jesus, and suddenly to see Jesus on the shore. The disciples shut up inside their hideaway of a protective, locked room must have been not only shocked by the entrance of Jesus into the room, despite the locked door, but also surprised by the forgiveness, healing and reconciliation that he offered to them after the terrors and betrayals of the previous days.

When my children were young, the Easter Bunny came to our house. Before my kids left home, he left the older kids not only candy but an occasional book on spirituality, rosary beads, or prayer card along with mountainous amounts of chocolate and jelly beans. My kids went straight for the chocolate. But my kids liked the egg hunt the best, in which the Bunny hid decorated eggs around the house. In the early years, these eggs were more or less in plain sight: on the mantle, or under the couch, where young children could easily find them. As the children got older, the Bunny hid them in sneakier places. But every year, all the eggs have always been found. This tradition was enough of a treat to my children that when one college aged child came home as a freshman and found that the Bunny had not hidden eggs that year, thinking him too old to want to find them, it was necessary to send him to a different room and to allow the Bunny a little more time. Even as adults, we all have a little bit of the child inside. Everyone wants the chance to “come home” and to be able to be the child again and to reconnect with that more innocent part of ourselves.

Eggs, of course, are a sign of new life, and bunnies of fecundity. God is fecund, multiplying life faster than we can keep up with it as every spring day features another flower, or blossoming tree, or extra few minutes of sun to accompany us into the evening hours. God does not ask us to create this new life for ourselves. God provides it.

Whether what we see today is an empty tomb, a faraway Jesus still off on the shore, or the presence of Jesus so close that you can feel his breath on your cheek, we can trust that God will show up to provide new life where we need it. Whatever happens, we know it will be surprising.

He is risen, indeed. Happy Easter.

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