by Fr. Bob Wild.
Thanks be to God Lent is over, and there’s no more need for conversion! The readings of the Easter Season just invite us to a time of peaceful meals with the Lord at table and on the seashore, a time of walking up and down with him and just sort of basking in the life of the New Creation.
Actually, I’m just saying that for effect. What I really believe, what I really want to say is this: what the Lord calls us to after the Resurrection is even more demanding than what he calls us to before it. But not to worry. I have a conversion program for you for after Easter.
During the Easter Season, basically, Christ calls us to believe in the Resurrection. No problem, you say? You already believe that.
Let me tell you a story, a true story. In the early part of the twentieth century, people actually used to walk across the gorge at Niagara Falls on a tightrope. (It’s probably against the law, now.)
On a Tightrope
Well, one day a man went back and forth on that tightrope several times. On one trip across, he even carried a stove and cooked an egg and ate it out there, if you can believe that!
When he came back, he asked the crowd that was watching him, “Do you think I can walk across with somebody sitting on my shoulders?” “Oh yes,” they said, “yes, yes.”
Then he turned to a man standing near him and asked, “Do you think I can do that?” The man said, “Sure.”
“All right then,” the man who had walked across the tightrope said. “Get on!”
I’m going to talk with you about getting on. What does it mean in our lives to really believe in the Resurrection? What does it mean to “get on”?
In the Scripture stories after the Resurrection, if you’ve ever noticed, there’s a lot of running around. Mary Magdalen is running to tell the apostles that Jesus has risen. The apostles are running to the tomb. I imagine that the disciples who had walked to Emmaus with Jesus must have almost run all the way back to Jerusalem.
And Peter’s jumping. He’s so excited when he sees the Lord that he can’t wait until the boat lands. He jumps into the water.
That’s a lot of excitement. But can you imagine what it must have been like for the apostles when Mary Magdalen burst into the room and told them that Christ had risen?
So the first thing the Lord calls us all to in this season is excitement. We need to be converted every day to this enthusiasm, this excitement in the fact that Jesus Christ lives!
This excitement that we’re called to is not a natural excitement. It is not a matter of constantly feeling excited. It is a matter of choice. We have to decide not only to believe, but to choose, every day, to live in this awareness that Jesus Christ is alive.
The second thing we see in these stories is joy. What must have been the joy of Mary to see Jesus after he was risen! What must have been the joy of the apostles!
The second conversion we are called to is joy. Do I believe that joy is deeper than sadness in my own life? No matter how much cause there is for sadness? Not do I feel joy, but do I choose to believe that joy is the deepest reality of my life?
It’s not easy to choose joy. It’s easier to be sad. It’s easier to be downcast as the disciples were on the way to Emmaus.
But we have within us what Jesus prayed for at the Last Supper. He prayed that his joy might be in us, his Easter joy.
I think this choosing joy is what is meant by “getting on.” This choosing to believe that the divine life within us is deeper than our sins and our tragedies and our sorrows. (Which are, of course, real).
There is a third conversion that we are called to during Eastertime. We are called to believe that through the resurrection of Christ, we are a new creation.
Christ tells us that we are a new creation, that we are sharers in the divine nature, that we are children of God. What must this be?
Sometimes I think that we are to ourselves the most distant of marvels. We marvel at the stars and at other marvels in the natural world. And we sometimes see the beauty of other people.
But we are so close to ourselves. When we look at ourselves, we too often see only our limitations, our wounds, and our sinfulness.
But during Eastertime we are called to believe in who we are underneath all those sins and weaknesses—the new creation, the new self that is joined forever to Christ.
Peter is a good example of this. He sinned grievously in denying Christ, but after the Resurrection, he accepted Christ’s unconditional love and forgiveness, and he was bold in preaching the Gospel and in using his power to cure the lame.
He had become so aware of the presence of Christ working through him, so aware of his new self. He had “gotten on.”
Jesus said, Go out now into the whole world and preach the Gospel (Mt 28:19). Do I have the desire to preach the risen Christ to others? Is it a longing? Is it a passion?
Easter Season choices are not easy. They are not easy because they are about the affirmation of life, a life that often contains struggle and suffering. They are about the affirmation of excitement over apathy, of joy over sadness, of life over death, and the choice to see myself as I really am in Christ rather than just what I can see and experience in my own psyche.
It does take an act of will to do this. And this is not simply positive thinking. It is choosing to live by faith.
We are called to choose these things. If we do not choose them, other things that are more easily seen and experienced will sweep us away.
So let us pray for one another in this ongoing paschal conversion: that we choose life, the life for which we were created by God from the beginning.
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