Monday, April 6, 2015

He is Risen!

 At the Synod on the New Evangelization several years ago, Cardinal Toppo of India told of a Hindu teenager who had been hanging around the Catholic priests at a local school. The boy was obviously a spiritual seeker and often asked questions about Christian belief. At one point one of the priests gave the boy a copy of the Gospels and told him to read them and then come back with questions and reactions. The boy came back more or less flabbergasted and somewhat accusing. He wanted to be sure he got it right, and so he demanded clarification. “Jesus is risen from the dead?” he asked. “Really risen from the dead?” “Yes,” they calmly answered, not displeased with his excitement. “Why didn’t you tell me!” he shouted at them, astonished that they would not have told him that straight out from the start. That Hindu boy had immediately caught the enormous significance of the Christian claim. Pope Benedict XVI captured the significance of the Resurrection when he wrote, “Only if Jesus is risen has anything really new occurred that changes the world and the situation of mankind….Whether Jesus merely was or whether he also is depends on the Resurrection….the Resurrection of Jesus constitutes an evolutionary leap…a new possibility of human existence is attained that affects everyone and that opens up a future, a new kind of future, for mankind.” 
   Each of the gospel accounts of the Resurrection makes reference to it being the first day of the week, at dawn or daybreak. They are all united in this. However, from there the various details of the accounts diverge, to say the least. In fact, I don’t think that it is too far fetched to say that day breaks into chaos and confusion. The very next verse in the gospel of Mark that we just heard says that the women “made their way out and fled from the tomb bewildered and trembling; and because of their great fear, they said nothing to anyone.” Throughout the accounts of the resurrection you hear expressions of fear, joy, wonder, disbelief, hope. It is almost as if these reactions and emotions are rival claimants fighting over the hearts of the first disciples. In those first hours and days, rumors and stories abound, chasing one another throughout the community of disciples and the surrounding region. After the crucifixion most of Jesus followers were dispersed and went into hiding. Why? Why the dispersion, chaos and confusion? It is a worthwhile question, a vital, visceral, transformative question.
   When we speak of the resurrection of Jesus we speak of a reality that is inseparable from the reality of the cross and Jesus’ death. The One who is risen is the crucified One. His wounds are now and forever part of his reality. The resurrection opens the mystery of the cross and reveals that glory which is already contained in the Lord’s death.
   The death of Jesus initially provoked a profound crisis in the disciples. The death of Jesus is meant to provoke such deeply fundamental, personal questions. The Resurrection of Jesus finds its meaning in answers to three profound questions. Who is God? God is the one who did not abandon his Son. Who is Jesus? Jesus is the one raised by the Father and established as Lord and Messiah. Who are we? We are his witnesses, witnesses to what never could have been foreseen, imagined or expected ahead of time, Witnesses to a divine deed infinite in its proportions, a life-altering; a life-changing deed. Witnesses are not bystanders. There is no such thing when it comes to the cross and resurrection. There are only participants. The cross and resurrection is not just something that happened to Jesus. It happens to us throughout our lives, over and over again whenever we dare to really ask those questions.
   I invite you to join me in asking to taste a bit of the grace which allowed that teenager from India to be so flabbergasted and surprised with awe and wonder; to experience something of the “evolutionary leap” that constitutes the resurrection. And with the church throughout the centuries, may we never tire of proclaiming that Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!  
Excerpts from Father Damian's homily at the Paschal Vigil.