18 Apr In the Twinkling of an Eye
by Fr. David May
How simple it all is! Jesus enters a village or town or country place. People come running from all directions carrying, urging on, and otherwise bringing him their sick.
They lay them out in the marketplaces alongside the garlic, the eggs, the sheep and the goats. As he passes, they beg him to touch only the tassel of his cloak. No interviews. No conversations. No recounting of medical history. And as many as touched it were healed (Mk 6:56).
It happened in the early Church as well: They even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them…and they were all cured (Acts 5: 15, 16).
And most extraordinary of all. Behold there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning…
Then he said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here. For he has been raised just as he said…” (Mt 28: 2-6).
The Lord walks by, the shadow of his apostle passes; in an instant, death is conquered by Resurrection. In an instant, the impossible becomes possible, the kingdom is made manifest, the Resurrection is achieved.
Easter is the season of “in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye!” God attains the victory for us and in us, a victory that we cannot accomplish with a lifetime of effort.
But, of course, most of the time it doesn’t happen that way. How long the battles in life go on!
Personal battles, battles within ourselves, against divided motives, sinful habits, human flaws. Personal battles for and with others, which take many forms in a vocation like ours in Madonna House: spiritual direction, fraternal correction, formation in the vocation itself.
It is because the victory usually comes so slowly that we need to give so much encouragement to the discouraged, to the fearful, to the ones just starting out in the spiritual journey, and even the ones with many years of experience.
Yes, how rare is the instant victory! How practically unheard of the battle for a soul’s peace being a simple or easy matter!
And when we think about the cultural battles now taking place, all this goes to another level.
Lately, we saw euthanasia voted in for children in a (once?) Catholic country, and the traditional definition of marriage deconstructed in state after state in the USA. There’s no telling what new definition of gender will be approved shortly, at least in some countries.
All of this is touted as the cutting edge of history and a victory for human rights against the old and oppressive order of religious tradition weighing on society.
And all of this is so rapidly being “normalized” in some societies that even a few friends of our community are finding it “necessary” to chide us for continuing to support Church teaching in such matters.
Our concern, which we share with the Church’s Magisterium, is that the consequences of ignoring God’s revelation will not be as happy as some are claiming.
In the midst of our struggles—personal and cultural—long struggles sprinkled with defeats and failures as well as glorious moments, what does it mean to live in expectation of the Resurrection at all times—during Easter and beyond?
For the apostles, it meant the rebirth of joy in meeting again the risen Lord in the ways he chose to come to them after he rose from the dead. They would never again have known such peace unless the Lord himself had brought them this gift in his very person.
So with us today! Can we not expect, in the midst of life’s challenges and trials, that in his Word, in the sacraments, in our personal prayer, and in brothers and sisters of faith, he who is risen and has conquered sin and death will come to bring us the same gifts he brought his first disciples?
Surely this is only to be expected, since we need him so!
He does come, and he comes in many ways. For example, he comes in the grace to testify to the truth, mainly in deeds of compassion and mercy to the suffering and the lost. He also comes in words of truth spoken with genuine love and concern for our neighbor.
It is a great moment of grace to speak or to truly hear the truth spoken in love. And it is an even greater grace to persevere in prayer and compassionate presence to those who oppose our teaching or simply do not comprehend it.
Struggles of one kind or another can be long, life-long in fact. But the moment of grace, gift that it is, comes in an instant.
Sometimes in the most critical moment, a word comes to our hearts and minds to bring consolation or the light of truth to a brother or sister. When this happens, it is as if the Lord reveals the very heart of a person and the secret longings hidden behind all the words.
A moment ago, the conversation was going nowhere. Now, suddenly, there is a true meeting in Christ, a pure gift, given in the twinkling of an eye!
Moreover, when we are at the end of our energy and even, it seems, our hope, the Lord himself comes in mercy, and we are wonderfully, inexplicably renewed by his gracious gift.
Often this gift is not the end of the struggle, but rather the grace to persevere, a gift as inexplicable and as wonderful in its way as the Resurrection of the Savior, which is its source.
And sometimes Resurrection, obvious, instantaneous, and dramatic, comes in a person’s life, and when it does, it is as astonishing, as unexplainable, and yes, as unexpected (at least as to timing and circumstances) as the shadow of an apostle suddenly gracing the streets of a town or village with an outpouring of healing love.
Sometimes, out of nowhere, out of death itself, Christ rises from the dead. Out of “nowhere” we, too, rise again to love as we have been loved.