On Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. This is the greatest feast of the liturgical year. We focus on the central mystery of our faith. Our faith is based on Christ as risen from the dead. In his first letter to the Corinthians Saint Paul put it this way: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is without substance, and so is your faith.”
Faith then is crucial. We cannot understand or explain how Christ rose from the dead any more than we can explain how God became man in the person of Jesus. That is why we believe. This day then should find us renewing our faith as we renew our baptismal promises and praying for a strengthening of our faith.
There is a facet of this mystery of the resurrection that is interesting. It is this. It seems that after his resurrection Jesus did not look like himself. When Mary Magdalene saw him she thought he was the gardener. When he appeared to his disciples on the shore of Lake Tiberius they did not recognize him while they conversed with him at length along the way.
In a sense the same thing can happen to us often enough. In fact it can prove very difficult to see Jesus (to see God) in much of what happens in our lives and in the world; all the war; violence, sickness and suffering, the absence of things we would like to see take place.
How do we see Jesus when he doesn’t look like himself? I found two responses to this question. The first was suggested by Louis Evely in one of his books. He put the question this way: If Jesus no longer looked like himself whom did he look like? In a sense he looked like anyone. If you want to see Christ you must look at your neighbor. Those disciples were unable to recognize him by his face, his voice, his height. They had to let go of those things and recognize him in a new way, as risen. If we are to recognize him coming into our lives we have to let go of any prejudices we may have that distort or cloud our vision. We have to try a different approach. If we are to see him changed we have to accept our need to change. We might say to be able to recognize him we have to begin to look like him ourselves.
In his booklet of reflections for Advent Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI has a very helpful page in this regard. He recalls an incident from Daniel Berrigan’s life. It seems Berrigan was asked to give a conference on God’s presence in today’s world. The conference was very brief. He simply told the audience how he spent some time each week sitting by the bed of a boy who was totally incapacitated both mentally and physically. The boy just lay there, cut off from any communication. Berrigan described how he just sat there trying to hear what the boy was saying in his silence and helplessness. He suggested this was the way God lies in our world, seemingly silent and helpless. God does not overpower us with his presence. He waits for us to listen to what he is saying, waits for us to open our minds and our hearts to him. Only then does he speak.