Jesus Lives! April 12, 2024

The Gospel reading for the third Sunday of Easter describes Jesus joining his disciples sometime after his resurrection. Physically standing among them, he greeted them with a message of peace. Their response? “They were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.” (Lk 24:37) They were troubled and had questions in their hearts about what they were experiencing.

Even after intimately walking with Jesus over the years, personally witnessing his actions, hearing his teachings, knowing him deeply, they were still terrified and confused.

It is hard to imagine the experience of the disciples. What might it be like to be at this gathering? How might you respond to the sight of Jesus, after you lived through the trauma of his crucifixion and the turmoil in the community during that time? I imagine fear, confusion, and questions are natural responses.

In this gathering, Jesus affirms, consoles, inspires, and continues to teach his disciples the meaning of his life and resurrection. Indeed, the resurrection of Jesus changes everything. Dr. James Finley speaks of mystical incarnation as the profound immediacy of God, the intimate presence of our God in every life, action, and experience. The resurrection of Jesus brings joy even into the chaos and fear. “The boundless divinity of the ordinary.”

Pope Francis states, “Jesus, by his Resurrection, gives us joy: the joy of being Christians, the joy of following him closely, the joy of taking the road of the beatitudes, the joy of being with him.” Even though “many times we are either startled when this joy comes to meet us, or we are full of fear.”

Pope Francis challenges us: does our fear prevent us from fully embracing and accepting the joy of the resurrection? Does our fear and grief keep us from surrendering to the true, real, tangible resurrection we are all invited to experience and embody?

Fr. Richard Rohr writes “Christianity…suggests that the pattern of transformation, the pattern that connects, the life that Reality offers us is not death avoided, but always death transformed. In other words, the only trustworthy pattern of spiritual transformation is death and resurrection.”

Life is full of pain, struggle, tension, hurt, and division. This resurrection invites us to see all this with eyes wide open, and to engage with joy and hope. This is radical and deep faith.

We grieve deeply, the suffering of those we love. We learn about the atrocity of human trafficking, reflecting on the sculpture on the plaza of The Basilica. We recoil when we hear and see the realities of war in the Middle East and around the globe. We cringe when we see people curled up in a blanket sleeping against the wall of the Rectory—with no place to find protection from the weather.

Author Debi Thomas states, “In the face of all this, I need to know that a better world is not just possible but assured… I need to know that, while we have every obligation to alleviate suffering in this world, the salvation of God’s precious children does not, finally, depend upon our clumsy efforts.… The tomb is empty. Death is vanquished. Jesus lives. Period. We are not in charge of Easter; God is.”

Pope Francis urges, “Do you speak with Jesus? Do you tell him: Jesus, I believe that you are alive, that you are risen, that you are close to me, that you will not abandon me”? This is the “dialogue with Jesus” open to Christians, informed by the knowledge that “Jesus is always with us, he is always with our problems, with our struggles and with our good works”.

May God do for us what God did for the disciples who were afraid: open our minds and hearts to understand that God is a living reality—accompanying us and calling us to act in courageous love.

Janice Andersen
Director of Christian Life