The Easter Octave has come to a close, but the Easter Season continues for another few weeks. It's during this season of Eastertide that we consider the wonderful, life-changing, world-shaking reality of the resurrection. For the disciples some two thousand years ago, these weeks were the weeks in which they enjoyed face-to-face conversation with the incarnate and risen Son of God. I earnestly believe that it was this time spent with the Risen Lord that gave these otherwise unassuming men and women the courage and tenacity to share the Gospel with the world they encountered and to build, on the foundation of Christ, His Bride and Body, the Church.
This is an important truth for us to wrestle with. From our perspective, the disciples had a certain advantage, for there was no doubting the resurrection when the resurrected Jesus was standing in front of them. They were able to hear from the Master himself how Scripture spoke of Him and how His Gospel and teaching could and would change the world. They were stripped of fear because they looked into the eyes of the resurrection and knew that death had been conquered.
This would definitely seem to give them an advantage, but we in the church are also given an advantage in that we encounter the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We may not look into the physical eyes of the resurrected Jesus, but like the disciples, we see Jesus, high and lifted up, in the consecrated elements of the Mass. We, like St. Thomas bowing and proclaiming, "my Lord and my God," are able to bow and proclaim the same, for the same resurrected Lord and God who was present with St. Thomas and all the disciples is present with us on the altar. We share in His presence, mysterious as it may be, and in so doing, we can be stripped of our own fear for we can look into the face of the resurrection.
But why? What is the benefit of this life-changing reality? The benefit for us is that we can go into this wonderful world around us unhindered by fear and doubt, and we can love, and forgive, and extend grace and mercy, and have compassion on the countless beautiful souls that we encounter each and every day. It was this unfettered love and compassion that marked Jesus' ministry and is what was the hallmark of the ministry of the disciples in the earliest days of the church, St. John himself records Jesus' words that the world will know we are Christians if we love one another (John 13:35). As a result, it is this unfettered love and compassion that should be the hallmark of our own journeys through this world.
The poet Mary Oliver, in her poem, "When Death Comes," writes,
When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. . .
I don't want to end up simply having visited the world.
We are enlivened by the presence of the resurrected Jesus to enter the world as a bride to the amazement and wonder of Christ, and to take His presence with us so that we, like He as the bridegroom, can gather those around us into our arms. We don't simply visit the world, we dwell within the world as bearers of the love and light of Christ.
This is the resurrected reality that we carry to others in Eastertide and throughout the year, without fear of death, without guilt of shame, without the weight of worry holding us back. May we be bold because of the resurrection to embrace the world the way Christ embraced the world and sought to bring it and us back to His loving and holy side.
(As published in St. Luke’s weekly newsletter, 5/1/19)