|Jesus reveals himself at Emmaus. Guilded bronze panel by|
Tom McAnulty from the Archabbey Church altar.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus says to his friend Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus both commissions and assures his disciples: “Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
These words of Jesus are meant for us today as well. The Resurrection of Jesus is not merely a historical event. Nor is it simply a promise to us—something we hope for ourselves in the future. It is an eternal, universal occurrence of inestimable proportion that unfolds daily in the lives of all believers—if it is genuinely accepted in faith, hope, and love.
Before he was crucified, Jesus said: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (John 12:32). He means you and me—today. We are drawn up into the Paschal Mystery of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. Most of us—to some degree, at least—understand the Passion and Death elements of that mystery because we all experience suffering and death—or will. However, can we also identify the ways in which Christ’s Resurrection is manifested in our own lives—not merely as a historical event or a promise of future restoration and renewal, but as a present reality?
“I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus said. “Do you believe this?”
Jesus’ Resurrection is manifested to us here and now through his Holy Spirit, with whom Christians are sealed at Baptism. Again, in John’s Gospel, he said: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” (John 14:26).
This Spirit is the divine life breath of all Christians, first breathed into the Church (cf. John 20:22; Acts 2) at Pentecost, just as God “formed [the first] man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). Through this Spirit, we live and move and have our being (cf. Acts 17:28). It is the prayer, sacraments, and life of the Church that resurrect us and give us life—not only at the Second Coming but (partially, at least) here and now. Remarkably, Jesus, through the Holy Spirit sent in his name by God the Father, is more present to us today, and in more ways and places, than he ever was as a man walking this earth 2,000 years ago (cf. John 14:15-31; 16:4-15). Additionally, as St. Paul tells us, the Holy Spirit dwells within each and every one of us (cf. Romans 5:5; 8:9-14).
Through all these avenues, God offers us the resurrection and the life of Christ each day. Today’s Mass readings for Wednesday within the Octave of Easter (Acts 3:1-10 and Luke 24:13-35) offer us some specific, concrete, post-Resurrection examples. In the first reading, Peter and John (now filled with the Holy Spirit and boldly proclaiming the Good News) provide new life to a man crippled from birth (who had to be carried each day to the temple gate to beg for alms). Through their intercession, this man—who had never walked before—miraculously began “walking and jumping and praising God.” In the Gospel reading, the resurrected Jesus draws near to and walks (unrecognized) with a pair of “downcast,” “slow of heart” disciples on their way to Emmaus. Slowly, he interprets Scripture (the Word who is himself) for them and then blesses and breaks bread (the Sacrament of the Eucharist, who is himself) with them. Then, “their eyes were opened and they recognized him,” and they said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” Spiritually revived and strengthened, the two returned to Jerusalem to share the Good News they had received.
In different circumstances, each of these persons was resurrected, given new life, through Christ—who was present to them in mysterious ways. Christ is no less present to us in our own times for those who truly believe. Through the gift of faith, we should each be able to recall occasions either remarkable or ordinary in which the Spirit seems to have breathed new life into us. From my own point of view, I can immediately recount several occurrences of the more remarkable kind: my own “spiritual reawakening”; my sobriety; my vocation as a monk, writer, and spiritual director; and the birth of my little nephew Evan in 2012. Those are just a few.
So, Easter is not over. For some, it’s just beginning. For all of us, the Paschal Mystery continues to unfold. The resurrection and the life who is Christ is looking for ways to surprise us, if we are willing to allow him. Here and now.
“Do you believe this?”