On the second Sunday of Lent, the gospel ended with Jesus telling Peter, James and John not to speak of the Transfiguration until he had risen from the dead. “So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.” Even immediately after the resurrection, for centuries following the resurrection, and still today, this question is still pondered. What is meant by the resurrection of Jesus?
There are, of course, many mysteries – or miracles – that we can never fully understand. But perhaps we can discover what the resurrection meant personally for the disciples, and what it means for us today. We know that those who encountered the risen Christ – Mary Magdalen, the apostles, disciples on the way to Emmaus (and perhaps others never mentioned in the gospel accounts) – the encounter was life- changing, radically and manifestly life-changing. Belief replaced doubt, courage overcame fear, the timid became bold proclaimers of their belief in the Christ. The small band of disciples left the upper room and was transformed from a relatively small coterie of believers to a universal religious movement, so fervent that martyrdom, as Tertullian noted, became the seed of Christianity. Today believers in the risen Christ number over 2.42 billion people world-wide. Only an act of God could have ignited such a fire of faith.
Christians throughout the centuries have not had the advantage that the apostles had of a personal, touchable, relationship with Jesus, but they have found their deepest identity in their relationship with Christ. To be a Christian is to reach a certain level of personal transformation where we can internalize the mission of Christ, understand the will of the Father, and carry the gospel message of love, faith, and service to others. I think this is what Karl Rahner meant when he wrote that Christ “must break open the tomb of our hearts . . . and rise from the center of our being.”
Christ is alive in our believing, he nourishes us in each Eucharist, he is present to us in one another. It is for us to bear witness to the world that Christ is risen and is alive among us. We are called to follow the gospel way of Jesus, to live the beatitudes, to be the hands and heart of the Risen Christ to our broken world. The late Cardinal of Venice, Carlo Martini, once wrote, “We must set out to meet our brothers and sisters . . . and bear witness to them that Christ is alive, he is present here in our faith and in the joy of living in freedom of spirit, in our complete abandonment to the grace of God, in the absolute poverty of our human means.”
Let us leave our upper rooms and proclaim that Christ is alive. Alleluia!
-Regina Murphy, SSMN
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