The early Christians were intensely aware that Jesus, raised from the dead, continued to be alive and active among them. If the art of the early Church is any indication, they did not not concentrate much on the sufferings of the crucifixion or even on the glory of the resurrection.
Our Gospel readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter invite us to recognize Jesus as the Good Shepherd, the one who gives his life for us and whose voice we recognize.
How do we hear his voice? Scripture, especially the Gospels, and the faith tradition of the Church are the usual answers. But we have to be a little careful here. So often the “word of God” is presented as unreachable ideals or commands that we know we can’t live up to. Then we’re inclined to ignore or reject them, and we’re left with nothing.
I don’t think God wants us to do the impossible or walk in darkness when he freely gives his light. The first thing we need to do is to pray – daily and without ceasing – that God will give us the grace to hear his voice in all the events, good and bad, in our daily lives. If we genuinely ask for this, we have his assurance that he will give it. Then, we can go to Scripture and the faith tradition of the Church to shed light on our daily lives.
We start with the lessons of our experience. There we discover God alive and active. Then, prayerfully, we discover new dimensions of God love, and Scripture will become a dialogue with our lives.
Christian imagination has taken this even a step further. Look close at The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by the great 16th-century Italian artist, Caravaggio. Jesus’ hand is gently but firmly guiding Thomas’ hand into the wound in his side. The wound itself opens almost invitingly and Thomas’ finger is hesitantly poised to enter the cavernous darkness of the wound. Not by accident does the opening look like the Gate of Heaven in the background of the Byzantine icon of the Resurrection in last week’s meditation. Mysteriously, the open wound is the gateway to Divinity.
In taking on human flesh, Christ embraces the depths of suffering humanity. In the crucifixion and resurrection, as one continuous act, God goes into the heart of our human suffering. The Risen Christ continues to be present in his wounded body, the Church, to become one with and to transform the woundedness of humanity.
Where do you find the Risen Jesus Christ today? Find ways to embrace the suffering people you encounter. They are on your doorstep. Become one with them in their need. He will find you there.
It was the forbidden “A-word.” Some Catholic traditions in parts Europe even had a ritual on the day before Ash Wednesday of ceremoniously burying a board with “Alleluia” printed on it. At the Easter Vigil it’s dug up and enthroned in a place of honor.
Lent is a time to sober and somber. It’s a time to reflect on the “hard truths” of human life lived n discipleship of Christ. Now we rejoice that Jesus has redeemed us from ultimate death and in him we live in the promise of new, risen life like his. Now, “Alleluia” is our song.
Eastern Christians greet one another at Easter by saying, “Jesus is Risen!” and responding, “He is Truly Risen!” Can we say that, and live with the joy of a people with new hope?
How is Jesus’ cross the Divine remedy for this all-too-human dividedness of heart? In embracing the cross, his obedience to God the Father isn’t merely a blind act of submission, it’s a fully willing act of fidelity. Jesus, in his human nature, was faithful to what it means to be human, even though the result was rejection, torture, and death.
Sinful human nature wants to “have it my way,” even if that means silencing and putting to death the Voice (Jesus as God’s Word) insisting that the way of self is the way of ultimate death, and that true life is found only in intentionally imitating God’s self-emptying Love.
This Holy Week let’s invite Jesus to show us where work still needs to be done in our own lives to overcome the gravitational pull of self-centeredness – in small ways as well as big – and learn from his fidelity in emptying himself for us. That’s the lesson of the cross.
Trust isn’t blind. It is, however, affirming that Light is there, even when we experience only darkness. Jesus is our model. In his agony on the garden, the night before he was betrayed, tortured, and put to death in the most inhuman way possible, Trust in God wasn’t cheap or easy for him. “Father, please take this cross away from me.” But, through sheer willpower, he brought himself to acceptance, allowing God to be God, trusting His Father will not permit death to have the last word. “Not my will, but yours be done.”
First, we may not feel that we need to be saved from anything. Perhaps we’ve got it pretty good and are satisfied. God becomes something of a background presence.
Or perhaps we may be in need, but feel that God isn’t answering our prayer to be saved from that need. It takes faith believe in God’s love, even when we don’t feel it. Faith gives rise to hope, that God will fulfill his promises in ways that are better than we could humanly expect.
God may not be delivering us from some difficulty because he seeks to deliver us through that difficulty for something greater — ultimately, eternal and infinitely loving union with him.
God lives in us for one reason only: the Lover wants to be intimately united with His beloved. As God’s beloved, we need not purify ourselves by doing violence to ourselves, as Jesus did in driving the money changers and merchants from the Temple of old.
Jesus is the only one who can purify us. In fact, he has already done so by his cross and resurrection. All we have to do is turn to him with trust that he wants to remove everything that stands in the way of God’s love for us.
When you pray, don’t run away from your sins and unworthiness. Instead, put the things you are sorrow for and embarrassed about into his hands. He will forgive and heal you, because he loves you.