Seeing the Resurrection

Fr. Ron Rolheiser

Easter Sunday
April 8, 2012

God never overpowers, never twists arms, never pushes your face into something so as to take away your freedom. God respects our freedom and is never a coercive force.
And nowhere is this more true than in what is revealed in the resurrection of Jesus. The Gospels assure us that, like his birth, the resurrection was physical, real, not just some alteration inside the consciousness of believers. After the resurrection, we are assured, Jesus’ tomb was empty, people could touch him, he ate food with them, he was not a ghost.

But his rising from the dead was not a brute slap in the face to his critics, a non-negotiable fact that left sceptics with nothing to say. The resurrection didn’t make a big splash. It was not some spectacular event that exploded into the world as the highlight on the evening news. It had the same dynamics as the incarnation itself: After he rose from the dead, Jesus was seen by some, but not by others; understood by some, but not by others. Some got his meaning and it changed their lives, others were indifferent to him, and still others understood what had happened, hardened their hearts against it, and tried to destroy its truth.

Notice how this parallels, almost perfectly, what happened at the birth of Jesus: The baby was real, not a ghost, but he was seen by some, but not by others and the event was understood by some but not by others. Some got its meaning and it changed their lives, others were indifferent and their lives went on as before, while still others (like Herod) sensed its meaning but hardened their hearts against it and tried to destroy the child.
Why the difference? What makes some see the resurrection while others do not? What lets some understand the mystery and embrace it, while others are left in indifference or hatred?

Hugo of St. Victor used to say: Love is the eye! When we look at anything through the eyes of love, we see correctly, understand, and properly appropriate its mystery. The reverse is also true. When we look at anything through eyes that are jaded, cynical, jealous, or bitter, we will not see correctly, will not understand, and will not properly appropriate its mystery.

We see this in how the Gospel of John describes the events of Easter Sunday. Jesus has risen, but, first of all, only the person who is driven by love, Mary Magdala, goes out in search of him. The others remain as they are, locked inside their own worlds. But love seeks out its beloved and Mary Magdala goes out, spices in hand, wanting at least to embalm his dead body. She finds his grave empty and runs back to Peter and the beloved disciple and tells them the tomb is empty. The two race off together, towards the tomb, but the disciple whom Jesus loved out-runs Peter and gets to the tomb first, but he doesn’t enter, he waits for Peter (authority) to go in first.

Peter enters the empty tomb, sees the linens that had covered the body of Jesus, but does not understand. Then the beloved disciple, love, enters. He sees and he does understand. Love grasps the mystery. Love is the eye. It is what lets us see and understand the resurrection.

That is why, after the resurrection, some saw Jesus but others did not. Some understood the resurrection while others did not. Those with the eyes of love saw and understood. Those without the eyes of love either didn’t see anything or were perplexed or upset by what they did see.

There are lots of ways to be blind. I remember an Easter Sunday some years ago when I was a young graduate student in San Francisco. Easter Sunday was late that year and it was a spectacularly beautiful spring day. But on that particular day I was mostly blind to what was around me. I was young, homesick, alone on Easter Sunday, and nursing a huge heartache. That colored everything I was seeing and feeling. It was Easter Sunday, in spring, in high sunshine, but, for what I was seeing, it might as well have been midnight, on Good Friday, in the dead of winter.

Lonely and nursing a heartache, I took a walk to calm my restlessness. At the entrance of a park, I saw a blind beggar holding a sign that read: It’s spring and I’m blind! The irony wasn’t lost on me. I was blind that day, more blind than that beggar, seeing neither spring nor the resurrection. What I was seeing were only those things that reflected what was going on inside my own heart.

Christ is risen, though we might not see him! We don’t always notice spring. The miraculous doesn’t force itself on us. It’s there, there to be seen, but whether we see or not, and what precisely we do see, depends mainly upon what’s going on inside our own hearts.

Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio Texas.|201204

A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
April 8, 2012

Easter Sunday John 20:1-9
John’s gospel ends as it began, with the question: where does Jesus dwell? Immediately after his baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan, Jesus noticed two of the Baptist’s disciples following him. He said to them, “What are you looking for?” They replied, “Rabbi where are you dwelling?” Jesus said to them, “Come, and you will see” (1:38-39). Now at the end after his death and burial, Mary of Magdala goes to the tomb while it is still dark to visit this final earthly dwelling place of Jesus. Seeing that the tomb is empty, she finds Simon Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved, and says to them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”

An Easter Parable
Listen to an Easter parable. The father was in a foul mood. He wanted to attend the Easter Liturgy with his wife and three children. Sunday worship with his family was special for him. He believed in the dictum that teaches that the family that worships together stays together. But he was the new manager of a fast-food restaurant. The owner, anticipating a large crowd, ordered him to work Easter Sunday.

Easter: The Power of the Cross Is Given to Us.
On Good Friday hundred of people at St. Ignatius and millions of people throughout the world gathered to venerate the Cross of the Lord. As I was watching the people here coming forward, I was keenly aware of the problems that many of them faced. This lady was sick, that man just buried his son, this child barely survived a deep problem. Many were dealing with job loss, or the fear of losing their homes. It occurred to me that every person who came up had concerns. And still they processed up the aisle to venerate the cross. Every person trusted in the Lord to guide her or his life. All of us, devoted to Jesus Christ, are drawn to the Cross of the Lord.

A chronology of the passion and death of Jesus
The events of last twenty-four hours of our Savior’s life can be a bit confusing to fit into a chronology. No single gospel relates all that happened, and (what is more difficult) some of the gospels seem to contain points of contradiction.

Here, I will set forth a simple chronology of the events from the Last Supper through Christ’s burial. But first, we will show the Catholic tradition regarding the question of whether Holy Thursday or Good Friday was the feast of Passover.

Where is Jesus after he Dies?
Where is Christ after he dies on Friday afternoon and before he rises on Easter Sunday? Both Scripture and Tradition answer this question. Consider the following from a Second Century Sermon and also a mediation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Easter Changes Everything
Christmas occupies such a large part of the Christian imagination that the absolute supremacy of Easter as the greatest of Christian feasts may get obscured at times. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, an Italian biblical scholar, suggests that we might begin to appreciate how Easter changed everything—and gave the birth of Jesus at Christmas its significance—by reflecting on the story of Jesus purifying the Jerusalem Temple, at the beginning of John’s Gospel.

Son Rise (John 20:1-10)
John 20:1-10: It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’ So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in.

Humility and Suffering
Holy Week is a week where we are reminded of the inextricable link between humility and suffering. Christ’s passion radically embodies the surrendering of self-will to God’s-will, the hurt of unjust humiliation and the willingness to embrace the suffering of the cross.

Jesus Is Not a Means, and Our Experience Is Not the End
This weekend, I had the privilege of going to Palm Sunday Mass at Holy Rosary parish in Houston. It’s one of those places where the presence of the Holy Spirit just about blows you backward as soon as you walk in the door. The building is almost 100 years old, and stepping inside feels like you’re being transported into another time. The priests’ love of the Eucharist is evident in their slightest motions as they move through the Mass. The huge wooded crucifix looms behind the altar, an omnipresent reminder of why we’re here. I’ve been to Mass there before, and I almost always have a powerful visceral experience. More than once I’ve found myself wiping tears out of my eyes, overwhelmed at the grandeur of what I was witnessing. But not this weekend.

Hope: When A Loved One Dies in Sin
My mother died at age 27. She left a grieving husband and three little children: myself, age six, and my younger sister and brother, ages four and two, respectively. I remember my mother well, her death from pneumonia the day after Christmas 1934, and her funeral, the first I ever attended. I remember too my father telling me, a few days after we had buried her: “We must still pray for Mummy. She is with God. He is looking after her, and our prayers can help her.” That made sense to me when I was only six. It makes sense to me still. I never celebrate Mass without praying for my dear mother by name—and now for many other loved ones who have gone home to God in the seven decades since her death.

Are We to Take the Bible “Literally”?
Dr. Peter Enns, an Evangelical blogger and Affiliate Processor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University, has started an interesting conversation on the appropriate way to analyze and understand Genesis 1-3 specifically, and the Bible more generally. I wanted to wade into this controversy, because I think Enns shows us the need for solid Biblical hermeneutics, and in turn, the need for the Church.

Ten Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the History of Holy Week
Holy Week is the richest span of liturgical tradition in the Catholic Church. While we remember the suffering of Christ, let’s take a look at some of the history that makes the time leading up to Holy Week such a rich part of our tradition.

Walking the Line
No. I’m not thinking about Johnny Cash today. I’m thinking about tombs. And waiting. And time set apart.

I’m thinking about Paul, hanging out in Damascus after the scales fell from his eyes. I’m thinking about Peter, sitting in the Upper Room, contemplating his three-fold denial. I’m thinking about Jesus, descending into Hell, awaiting Resurrection.

I’m thinking about these things because, well, that’s what we Catholics do this time of year. We stop the ordinary business of life, look at ourselves, and ask, “Where have I fallen short? How is my life not imaging the life of the man on the cross?”

How I Found Joy in Sorrow and Pain
The Cross is the great paradox of Christianity. More than a few people have asked me over the years why the Catholic Church focuses so prominently and persistently on the Crucifix. One inquirer even suggested that the Crucifix hanging above the Altar is too intense a reminder of the sorrow in the world and that she would never join a church that displayed a sign of such cruel violence.

On Being Willing to Die With Christ. A Holy Week Meditation for Increasingly Hostile Times
The Gospel from Monday of Holy Week presented an interesting a challenging picture for those of us who wish to be disciples of the Lord. For a brief moment the focus shifts to Lazarus. Lets consider the text and ask some questions of our selves:

Pro-Life is Easy, Pro-Marriage is Hard
Culturally, it’s getting easier for people to be pro-life. There are four key reasons for this:

(*While being pro-life includes many things, here I’m mostly referring to life in the womb.)

1) The science: Science has clearly confirmed that a new, individual, self-directing human life is created at the moment of fertilization (i.e. conception). There is no point after that where this life magically becomes human or deserves to live, etc. It’s quite obviously a precious human life from that first moment. Just add food, water and proper shelter and eventually you get a bigger human being. People increasingly get that. And it takes really convoluted, non-rational squirming to try and say otherwise.

The Dark Gulf Before Us
In March of 1938, when the naïve among his contemporaries still thought they might cut a deal with the National Socialists, Winston Churchill saw his country “descending incontinently, fecklessly, the stairway which leads to a dark gulf.” A gulf beckons today, and no amount of forced optimism or self-conscious jollity will stop the descent to its shadows. There is nothing inevitable about what lies ahead, but providence will overcome fatalism only if people absorb what Pope Benedict XVI said last January to a group of American bishop on their “ad limina” visit: “…it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres.”

The Measure of the World
A great number of men live and die without reflecting at all upon the state of things in which they find themselves. They take things as they come, and follow their inclinations as far as they have the opportunity. They are guided mainly by pleasure and pain, not by reason, principle, or conscience; and they do not attempt to interpret this world, to determine what it means, or to reduce what they see and feel to system. But when persons, either from thoughtfulness of mind, or from intellectual activity, begin to contemplate the visible state of things into which they are born, then forthwith they find it a maze and a perplexity. . . .Why it is, and what it is to issue in, and how it is what it is, and how we come to be introduced into it, and what is our destiny, are all mysteries.

The Value of Conscience
The memory still stings: there I was, age 7, the veteran of a splendidly moving and memorable first holy Communion and graced with an oddball love of the Sacrament of Confession in all of its velvet-curtained-sliding-screen ambiance, planning to steal a toy “ladies fan” from a candy store, simply to see if I could.

12 Catholic Blogs Worth Your Time
Listers, the following collection of blogs represents the best Catholic voices online. The list is not necessarily in a strict order. If you think there is a blog(s) that should be featured on St. Peter’s List please do not hesitate to name and link the blog in the comment box and we’ll see what we can do. Also, please note this is a list of blogs – and even though SPL has included some that stretch the limits of a blog, other excellent news sites like New Advent and Life Site News will be featured elsewhere. SPL did not list itself, but you can find more lists from us on Twitter and Facebook.

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