by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
ALLELUIA – ALLELUIA – ALLELUIA! HE WHO WAS DEAD, LIVES.
Now we begin with what a believer has described as “The Fifty Sundays”. That is from Easter Sunday to Pentecost each day is like a Sunday, festive. We celebrate what Saint Augustine called, “the Resurrection of Christ, God’s supreme and wholly marvelous work”.
As we move from the dramatic Easter Vigil through Easter Sunday glory to the “Fifty Sundays”, we recall the various manifestations of the Risen Christ: in the very first place, Jesus’ tomb and the women who found it empty and became the first to announce his victory over death; the two apostles, Peter and John, racing to see for themselves what the women had told them; Jesus revealing himself to Mary Magdalen by simply saying her name; the Lord’s appearance to the ten apostles cowering with fear that same first day of the week; the Risen Jesus preparing breakfast for his fishermen apostles; his healing words to Peter at that moment, “do you love me”, so soon after that apostle denied him; the Lord’s command to the apostles that they go back to Galilee where it all began.
There are two manifestations of the Risen Christ which stand out as particularly relevant for us. One is the follow up to his appearance to the apostles as they hid in fear. He returns eight days later when Thomas, the Twin, is present and allows him to probe the nail marks and his wounded side as proof of his resurrection. At Thomas’ act of faith, Jesus says to him: “Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.” He was clearly speaking of us, the generations of his followers who, just as we are doing, have celebrated the fact that Christ overcame death and lives – that death does is not the final chapter in human life.
The second notable manifestation of Christ after his Resurrection came during the encounter with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They finally recognized him as he sat at table and broke bread with them. Christian generations likewise have recognized our Lord every time we break the eucharistic bread, and in every gesture of love, every action for justice, every effort toward reconciliation. He is there.
The lyrics of a wonderful hymn by composer Tom Conry speak loudly about this incredible event in human history and the multitudes of us through the ages who have lived its consequences personally and for our world.
“All people here who remember Jesus, brother and friend; All who hold to his memory, all who keep faith in the end…
Will live without fear or illusion… walk without wonders of signs, tell of the story we’ve heard… carry his name as our own.”
Yet we have to say that our belief in the resurrection of Jesus remains a challenge. St. Paul recognized this when he wrote in stark terms to the early Christians in the Greek city of Corinth. Addressing their doubts, he says: “If Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, your faith…If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.” (I Cor. 15:14,19)
Immediately then, this man, who had experienced a life-changing encounter with the risen Christ, asserts: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (I Cor. 15:20)
The contemporary Catholic writer, Bishop Robert Barron, helps us in our doubts: “Let us be content with understanding that faith is a trusting surrender that there is a reasonability on the side of reason.”
Or the insightful statement of 17th century Catholic theologian, Blaise Pascal: “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of…We know the truth not only by reason, but by the heart.”
We therefore are Easter people, and alleluia is our song!
Joe Nangle OFM is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. As a member of the Assisi Community in Washington, D.C., he is dedicated to simple living and social change. Joe also serves as the Pastoral Associate for the Latino community at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, Virginia.