Do We Recognize our Risen Lord?

Dearest friends in Christ:

Jesus Christ is risen, He is truly risen! Alleluia!

What has this experience of dealing with the coronavirus taught you so far? What blessings have you received that you are most thankful for? For many, it is impossible to see any blessings or benefit from the experience that we find ourselves in at this time. Suffering, death, fear, disruption, financial ruin, shortages, cancellations, social distancing, alienation, stress, stay at home orders, quarantines and so much more – how can anyone find good or blessings in that? For us as Catholics and for many other Christians, there has been the added difficulty and burden of not being allowed to gather together as a community in worship. Specifically for us as Catholics, that has meant that we have not been able to participate at Holy Mass, the rites of Holy Week, the Sacred Triduum and most significantly, we have not been able to receive the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. What can be good about any of that? Where is any blessing?

Today, we go back two thousand years ago to that morning of the first day of the week on the outskirts of Jerusalem. A tumultuous week, filled with confusion, excitement, pain, spectacle, intrigue, drama, confusion, chaos, shame, anger, blood and death. For almost all that morning was nothing. It was another day. A day to move on, a day to put the past week behind. A day to deal with the problems at hand. For the disciples and followers of Jesus, they were having to deal with the aftermath of his death, his absence from their lives. We see that with the women at the tomb, with Peter and John and later that day with Cleopas and the other disciple on the road to Emmaus. When they awoke that morning, they thought it was the same world as when they fell asleep the night before. But this day was different. The world was different. They just didn’t know it.

When they set out for the tomb, the women and the apostles had a set of expectations. They knew what they were going to find; a corpse, a lifeless body, cold and still. They knew what they had to do all the while missing him, longing for him, desiring to see the gaze of his eyes, the smile of his face, aching to hear his voice one more time. What they wanted most was to wake up from a bad dream. They wanted the past, the way things used to be. But this day was different, the world was different, all of creation and history was different. They just didn’t know it.

That day, that Sunday, the third day since the agony and death of Jesus, a new life had dawned; a life of victory, a life of presence. And the tomb was empty. The angels said to the women in their terror, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead?” The world had changed but their expectations had not. It took time for them to realize that Jesus was indeed risen, he was alive. He was not gone, he was with them. The risen Jesus asks Mary Magdalene as she wept, “Whom are you looking for?” In her tears, even after seeing the empty tomb, she still does not recognize Jesus as the one speaking to her. She who longed for his voice, failed to recognize the voice of her Lord. But as he called her by name, she is then able to respond. The disciples on the road that evening, failing to recognize the risen Jesus as he walked with them, talked with them and even chastised them for being foolish and slow of heart, only afterwards did they come to admit that their hearts were burning as he was with them.

As we deal with the world in a state of panic and confusion, fear and isolation, do we see the Risen One? Do we recognize him and hear his voice? Do we see the empty tomb and still cling to our expectations and desire the way things used to be? Do we hear Jesus asking us “Whom are you looking for?”

What has this time taught you and what are you grateful for?

Have a beautiful Easter!