A Shepherd’s Message: He is Risen! Happy Easter!

April 8, 2012

In Chapter five of the Gospel of St. John, on a Sabbath at the Sheep Pool Gate of the Jerusalem Temple, Jesus heals a man who was paralyzed for 38 years. The timing, place and particularity of the healing are precise. But the miracle becomes still another “sign” of the universal import of the words and deeds of Jesus. Indeed, some object to Jesus’ healing on the weekly day of rest. Jesus gives an enigmatic response: “My Father is working still and I am working.” What does Jesus mean?

The Father’s loving plan is always in action; the Beloved Son interprets the work of the Father and does whatever the Father asks, for “He and I are one.” The great masterpiece of self-giving love and of emptying out for paralyzed human beings is the work of the Cross and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every fiber of Jesus is loving obedience. In His voluntary passion and death and, yes, even in His burial, Jesus has carried the sins of all and made their death His own.

Though all earthly work of Christ seems to stop in His death on the Cross and in His burial in the tomb, the Father still goes on working – and so does the Son. In death, His side receives the wound of the soldier and blood and water pour out, already interpreted in the early Church as the beginning of the Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. In the grave, Christ enters into the absence of burial, an absence lived now by some who, though physically alive, seem to be walking and living a death, an absence of grace-filled life. Jesus Christ took on everything that was ours and was sinful and death-dealing, most especially the malice and hatred of God that is at the root of every sin, great or small. He disarmed that hatred by love. The grave could not hold Him.

The event of the Resurrection cannot be described, its silent energy being totally unique. The Gospels recount two dimensions of the Resurrection: the empty tomb and the appearances of the risen Jesus to Peter and the twelve; to Mary Magdalene and the myrrh-bearing women; and to other disciples. He does not appear to those witnesses as though absent and making some occasional appearances. He IS and allows Himself to be seen, as He encourages their faith and their faith grows in understanding.

His Risen Body always bears the marks of His passion, for it is the “same” body that walked the roads of Galilee; yet Christ’s risen body is different, for it has become a source of life and has not “returned” to this life but has entered a new dimension of genuine “Life”: life with His Father. Both He and the Father “keep on working” to encounter women and men and bring them together as the Church. You cannot meet the Risen Jesus – in Word, in Sacrament, in “others” – without wanting to share His message and His Life. He transforms you and such joy compels sharing and common living in grace.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ happened, but it is not past. It happened “once for all” and continues to work in our midst. The “hour” of Jesus, His death and resurrection, has come and we are in it! The event of His new life abides and remains. He and the Father keep working through the Holy Spirit. As the great inspired text of the Letter to the Hebrews puts it in referring to Christ bringing the sacrifice of Himself back to the Father: “Here I am and the children you have given me.” Every paralysis of soul has been healed and watered by the action of the Word Made Flesh in saving us from the permanence of the absence called death. He is Risen! Happy Easter!