Three personal reactions to the Resurrection
Easter Sunday (LEasterB), April 12, 2009
By Fr. Rich Lifrak, SSCC
Jesus has risen! Jesus has risen! Jesus has risen! (Each time louder)
I am telling you that Jesus has risen in this particular way, not because you don’t know that Jesus has risen, but because how you know it, how you proclaim it, and how you act in response to the resurrection of Jesus makes all the difference in the world. Also, I wish to get you started at high gear, because, after all, this is Easter day.
Many people love Easter, because it ends the season of Lent with all its painful sacrifices. Many people love Easter, because the cross is out of sight. Many people love Easter, because smiles come easier as spring and flowers return, and school is out. These are all reasonable responses, but the most deeply rooted and religious response to the breaking out of Easter must involve grappling with the astounding reality that our Savior, though crucified, killed, and sent to the grave mutilated and dead, is actually alive, something any reasonable person would reject as improbable. And yet it is true.
How did I come to this point, I who for so many of my early years was overly rational and agnostic, raised Jewish, which means trained religiously not to be Christian, then later becoming Buddhist, that is, questioning any and every rational proposition about life.
It started, in earnest, the day I entered a Catholic Church at the age of 35 at a time when the mass was being celebrated. I, who had never been a believer, encountered a presence, a life, a love beyond my human knowledge. I was so astounded, that, after that, I could only respond in one way. I had to give my life to such a wonderful savior, to such a great and awesome God. And I have never regretted this turn in my life, because Jesus truly is risen and never takes his Risenness back.
Not everyone gets this gift the same way. Today’s Gospel presents us with three personal reactions to the resurrection of Jesus: one represented by Mary Magdalene, one represented by Simon Peter, and one represented by the Beloved disciple.
Mary Magdalene is a believer who loves Jesus in so far as she can touch him and be touched by him. She looks back at her memories of the wonderful deeds of Jesus, his warm and loving personal presence, and knows only loss. She wishes only to visit his body to pay her respects and to be close to the body of the one who had been her beloved master and friend. When his body disappears, she thinks some grave robbers have played a trick on her.
Simon Peter represents the believer who is divided inside. He is attached to Jesus because of the kind of acts he did and because of the wisdom he demonstrated. However, having denied Jesus, he knows with a terrible certainty that he is a sinner. So, he looks forward to nothing, except the mercy of God.
And then we have the third kind of believer, who is called the Beloved Disciple. His community knew his name, but chose not to write it down. When the Beloved Disciple heard from Mary Magdalene about the disappearance of Jesus’ body, he was already supposing that something wonderful had happened and was going to continue to happen. So he ran to the empty tomb. Today’s Gospel says that he saw and believed. That is, he believed that Jesus was now alive in a new way. He knew it was wonderful. He just didn’t know yet how to communicate his brand new faith to others. That he had to learn later.
Which of these types of believers in the resurrection are we? In what state is our resurrection faith? You know, I don’t blame you if you do not have an answer ready, because I know how easy it is to pass to a less certain state of faith.
But right now, in the clear presence of Jesus and in the presence of you wonderful people, I can have and I will have the courage to proclaim to you this most wonderful foundation for our Catholic Christian faith. Can you repeat after me: “Jesus is Risen! Jesus is Risen! Jesus is Risen! Yes, I believe that, in this graced and glorious time, we all can proclaim that Jesus is Risen. He has Risen, indeed! Alleluia!
But now that we have it, how will we keep it going? Certainly not by hiding in a corner and hoarding our light and happy feelings. No. That would not be Jesus’ way. Instead, let us venture forth boldly to act with Jesus’ life that has come to us in a blaze of glory or perhaps in a quiet, joyous whisper.
May we who know ourselves to be Easter people proclaim and live our faith in the following way (This is a quote from Carlo Carretto): “Though we are sick with the disorder, the violence, the lies of this world, because Jesus died and rose, His salvation is already with us. So when a loved one is on their death bed, even in the pain of parting, we can say, ‘We will see each other in heaven. Have courage.’ Every departing missionary from the bosom of the community is an act of faith in the resurrection. When you forgive your enemy, when you feed the hungry, when you defend the weak, despite the threats of the powerful, you believe in the resurrection. When you have the courage to marry until death do you part, when you welcome a newly born child, despite the expense, when you take care of your neighbors, even the ones you don’t like, you believe in the resurrection. When you wake with peace in the morning, though all your bones hurt, you believe in the resurrection.”
Enjoy, celebrate, live Christ’s resurrection, His Risen life and love.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!