Posted April 13, 2009 in Lent and Easter, and in New Millennium:
How the Universe Gets Renewed

by Fr. David May.

If you want to think big, you’ve got to start small. If you want to see the world truly transformed, you’ve got to let go of grandiose ideas that wear out before they ever get anywhere. If you want renewal on the grand scale or in your personal life, you are invited to look at the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Resurrection itself is an event utterly hidden from our view. No gospel account describes it to us. Only Matthew lets us get close with his description of an earthquake and an angel descending from heaven to roll back the stone.

Even the angel announces an event that is already completed: Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus, the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said (Mt 28: 5-6). Thus began the one sure foundation upon which the renewal of all things was henceforth to be based.

Matthew, Luke, and John provide us with basically eight stories of appearances of the Risen Lord, some of which duplicate one another. Mark’s version in his longer ending seems to be a resumé of these other accounts.

These stories give us a key that it would be well to examine. Take, for example, the account in Luke’s gospel of the appearance of the Lord to the disciples on Easter night (24: 36-49).

Two disciples have returned from Emmaus with their story of meeting the Risen Christ, who has by now also appeared to Simon Peter. Suddenly, Jesus stands in their midst and wishes them the Easter gift of "peace," a term that describes the fullness of blessing that the kingdom of God imparts to all who have faith in him.

The first step, then, in personal or universal renewal is—to do nothing. It is Christ who must come into the locked and barred situation of human futility and powerlessness. He has won the right to do so by sharing the human fate unto death and then rising again.

On the road to Emmaus, in the midst of an animated discussion of the day’s events, suddenly the Lord appears, and we must imagine, for an instant, that all are silent with sheer astonishment. It is true! He is risen! He is with us! No earthly or ethereal power can prevent him from coming to us.

Do you live in a situation of futility and powerlessness? Are you locked into self by fear or personal weakness or sin or shame? Does the fear of death rule your life in ways you can perhaps only haltingly perceive?

It is to such as you that the Risen Lord comes, passing through locked doors and barred entryways to bring you his gifts of peace and hope.

The disciples that night, and humanity generally, are "startled," "terrified" and "troubled" by this intrusion of the new world into the old one of our human experience.

When Christ comes, it is not to confirm things as they are or to repeat what has been said before. He, the ever New One, brings a new existence, a new life, an utterly new perspective.

Yet, this is the very one who walked our earth, ate our food, spoke our language, suffered our pain, bore our sins, died our death.

He shows the disciples his hands and feet, which bear the nail marks still. He offers to let them touch his body of "flesh and bones." He eats a piece of baked fish before their eyes. He is now and forever a part of our world, yet he transcends it and utterly surpasses it, so as to bring the heavenly kingdom among us.

How does he begin that work of imparting the radiance of the divine? He does so by explaining the Scriptures. The word of God alone bears the full mystery of what Easter brings, and only the living Lord risen from the dead can interpret it to us.

How we would love to have been in that room on Easter night when he explained "everything" written about him in the Law of Moses and in the prophets and in the psalms! We would have given anything to be included in that "opening of their minds" to understand the Scriptures!

Yet that is precisely what the Lord who comes to us does: he opens our minds to understand his Word. He opens our hearts to receive just how that word applies to you or me at this time, in this place, in this circumstance.

He demonstrates how my suffering united to his is not the dead end I thought it was or feel it is, but the passageway to resurrection and new life.

How hard it is on my lack of faith, my fear, to not know, yet again, what the answer is to this problem or that! (In Madonna House, we have many such situations.)

But there is deeper in me a voice that cries out, "Come to the Father", and in the stillness of that invitation is the strength to persevere and the peace that makes deeper listening possible.

In that perseverance and in that listening is the solution to every difficulty in life. Why? Because the Risen Lord has pioneered a way through the veil of human suffering by trusting his Father to the end.

Now that Christ is risen, every passage of Scripture can be read in that "key," as a means of sharing more deeply in his life, his victory.

Yet such insight is never automatic nor can it be recorded for future reference in new situations. Life is of such complexity and dynamism that only new depths perceived in the Word each time can encompass life and transform it.

In other words, a living Lord is needed to break open anew the bread of the Word for our nourishment and understanding. This he does for those who seek his help.

Finally, the Lord tells his disciples that they are to be witnesses to all these things once they receive the Power from on high, the Holy Spirit. Not only does the Lord come to his friends to renew them and to break their lives open to the vast horizon of his own life, but he sends them out to begin that process for others.

What he has done for them personally he will do for others through their testimony.

The renewal of the whole universe is carried on in this way: one Man is raised, who carries in his person enough life to fill the whole cosmos with the presence of God. Yet his way is to impart this gift one by one to his friends, who in turn are empowered to bring this gift to others.

All of this is as "small" as a tomb with the stone rolled away or a man walking along a road conversing with two others and lifting the burden of sadness from their hearts. At the same time, it is mostly hidden from the world’s view.

Yet only he, and no other, has the key to the whole cosmos and its transformation. He awaits our listening, our faith, our obedience.

Let us turn to him with joy and receive anew the One who alone holds the keys to Hades and death!


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