Dear Friends in Christ:
He is risen! He is truly risen! Alleluia!
What do these words really mean? For many of us, it is a simple statement of faith and truth. We are so accustomed to the teaching that Jesus Christ has risen from the grave, conquering sin and death for all eternity and bringing salvation to all, that these words are just an ordinary part of our ‘everyday’ reality. Because this claim is so familiar to us, we hardly recognize the power of these words. Yet for many people, these words are gibberish, crazy talk, irrational, nonsense. What silliness! How utterly insane to claim or assert a man has risen from the dead! This is what the words must have seemed like to everyone 2000 years ago. It is what these words mean to most people in the world even today. Because our Christian faith is so much a part of our personal landscape, our history and our culture, we can fail to see the shocking nature of this claim. Because of the familiarity of our faith, we have domesticated the outrageous character of the claim. We forget how shocking this central belief of Christianity truly is. We proclaim that Jesus Christ is true God and true man; He suffered and died on a cross and after three days in the tomb He literally rose from the grave. Alive! It is difficult, if not nearly impossible, for us to imagine the amazing impact of such a thing. This claim challenges us intellectually, emotionally and at every level. If this is a fantasy claim, you and I are in fact delusional and silly and need to be under heavy medication and intense psychotherapy. But if this outrageous claim is indeed true, as we claim it is, then that changes everything! This outrageous claim, this preposterous assertion, is exactly what we believe as Christians and celebrate today.
For too many of us, our domestication of Jesus, His resurrection and His message, has made it easy to put Jesus and our response to Him aside. Taming the outrageousness of the claim of faith makes it easy to dismiss any idea about living our faith in a truly radical fashion that such a claim demands. Domesticating the claim reduces and minimizes discipleship to something like a membership in a nice club or better yet, to the “Club of Nice”. We pay our dues, get a few benefits, everybody is nice and we are nice to everybody and that’s about it. No big deal. When we domesticate the Risen Jesus, the gospel and faith, we can more easily go about living our lives the way we want to – with us in control. Many people do not come and outright say they don’t believe at all, they just try to make it more “reasonable sounding” by saying that they are “spiritual but not religious”.
That is like saying ‘I am a vegetarian but I eat meat!’ In other words, it really means nothing of substance or truth. No conviction or commitment is necessary or required. It is not anything that we should stake our lives or our whole way of living on. But the claim of the resurrection does not allow us to be so dismissive. To be a disciple of Jesus, risen from the tomb, is to be all in.
Like St. Thomas, the apostle, upon seeing the risen Lord, we must utter “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:18) To know the Risen Lord is to claim Jesus as our All in All, our Everything.
The acceptance of the Risen Lord into our hearts and into our lives means that we are embracing a new reality for ourselves. It means that we can no longer live for this world or for ourselves. It means that what we truly want for ourselves is what Jesus wants for us. To follow Jesus risen from the dead is to live our lives differently. We willingly and deliberately make different choices for ourselves and for those that we love. To accept and follow the Risen Jesus is to accept that death, sin and the claims of this world do not apply to us in the same way as they do to those who do not accept Christ and the truth of His Resurrection.
Like St. Paul, we claim, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ living in me! (Gal 2:20)
Outrageous? Yes! Sensational? Yes! True? You can bet your life on it! Ask Jesus every day to help you follow Him. He is risen! He is truly risen! Just as He said! Alleluia!
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately