The Lord is Risen!
It’s Easter, and this year, our being assured of the power of God’s love and life to triumph over death is deeply needed. When illness, anxiety, and death are so vividly in the world around us, the Resurrection message may speak to us even more deeply than in times where everything goes smoothly. In this historical moment, we cannot so easily put off the thoughts of our own mortality or of those whom we love. And yet it’s always been true that we are mortal and must eventually encounter our mortal weakness.
I believe in the Resurrection and in Jesus’s being raised from the dead. I really do.
We have witnesses in those who wrote the Gospels. We have witness in the lives of people like Peter, to whom something profound happened. The same Peter who fled the Cross during Jesus’s crucifixion becomes so transformed by his encounter with Christ afterwards that he willingly dies a death by crucifixion himself . I have always found this intriguing: what changed inside of Peter? What happened that made him change from someone who promised to stay with Jesus but then denied him, to someone who was willing to follow Jesus to a place he really did not want to go—except that he believed? We have Resurrection accounts of Peter meeting Jesus again, but we can imagine that there are even more moments that do not become recorded in the Gospels: moments where he comes to know the truth of Life’s triumph over death—as he does when he eats and walks with Jesus on the beach. This knowing transforms him and it is available to us and can transform us, too.
For me, it is helpful for me to reflect back and to remember other moments in my own life where God’s loving power , or powerful love, has been known experientially. I can recall other times where I had to trust in God beyond my own power, and God was there.
I can think of times, for example, when a family member whom I loved died, when I was grieving, and I was reassured that my family member was okay and continuing on in some way—not far from me, but still near in a different way. I can look back at moments where a broken relationship was reconciled, not through my own will alone but through the puzzle pieces lining up in a way that goes far beyond coincidence.
I can recall times where I yearned to know God’s love in a moment of spiritual dryness or desolation, and a sense of peace and joy descended on me as if from above. I can recall moments in my prayer that were later confirmed in life experience—even in the face of my own skepticism.
I know I’m not alone in having these kinds of experiences. For me, it helps me to have confidence that God’s love is bigger than death when I can recall these past moments—and not only my own but also those friends or fellow members of the community have shared with me over the years. We come to know God not only through our own way of experiencing God but also through the ways others’ lives and experiences beautifully disclose and witness to the reality of that Love.
At Easter, the Resurrection is something we come to know both in a deeply personal and individual way and in community. We see it in the Gospels of this octave of Easter. Mary Magdalene’s encounter embodies this twofold nature of how we experience the Resurrection. She waits and when Jesus appears, her encounter with the Lord is that of an intimate friendship. He speaks her name tenderly. She is overjoyed to see him. He is alive and her joy cannot be contained. She wants to embrace him. We see how personal her relationship to Jesus is: not abstract but incarnate and concrete, loving and tender.
And yet it’s not enough for it to remain only with her and between Jesus and her alone. Jesus tells her not to hold onto him and to go and preach the good news. And she goes out to share that message with the others. She becomes an apostle to the apostles, a woman who proclaims the truth of Jesus’s Resurrection to the others. She goes out to the wider community.
We can also focus on these two aspects of the Resurrection: where do we, personally, know the Resurrection? Where is there gratitude for today’s gifts of God’s love, memories of past consolation or healing, or hope and anticipation of love and life in the future? We can also listen to others and their witness to the Resurrection: Maybe we can ask others: why do you believe? What in your faith sustains you? We may be social distancing but we can still phone, Zoom, or write to one another to share love and life.
We can also be agents of love and reconciliation and so preach the gospel in deeds as well as words. Who in my world needs love, healing, or an expression of care? Maybe I cannot visit a neighbor’s home but I can check in to see what my neighbor concretely needs and leave it on the porch. I can let an ill friend know, I’m praying for you and hold her in the light of God’s love. I can plan something celebratory or silly, or cook a good meal, to share at Easter with my family. In these simple ways, too, we also share the Gospel by building up life.
Where do you know hope, light, and love?