Saturday, April 7, 2007

Believing is Seeing

Happy Easter, friends. May the new life of the Resurrection bubble up in its freshness in all our tasks and relationships this day and forever.

In our first reading today we have St. Peter’s speech in the house of Cornelius. Peter boldly proclaims how God had anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how Jesus went about doing good and healing all.

But wait a second. Peter? Is this the same Peter whom we heard about two days ago on Good Friday, about how we denied that he even knew Jesus, not once, but three times? Standing there in the cold and darkness of night outside of Jesus’ trial, he didn’t even have enough commitment to the Lord to even admit that he had heard of Jesus.

And yet here he is, in the house of an officer of the Roman army no less, proclaiming that this same Jesus is the judge appointed by God, through whom we receive forgiveness of sins in his name. This is quite a transformation! The same man who denied that he even knew Jesus, not once, but three times, is now proclaiming belief in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

This transformation, this change from being someone dominated by fear to someone who preaches the name of Jesus with courage and faith and conviction, this, friends, is the transformation we call the Resurrection.

Recall our second reading today, from the letter to the Colossians, in which we heard that “we are raised with Christ” and that we may now “seek what is above.”

We are the body of Christ, the Church. And the body of Christ is raised from the dead in the Resurrection—it’s us who form his body in the world and in history. Our common baptism into the death of Christ was celebrated by the Churches of God most clearly last night at the Great Vigil of Easter. And by allowing ourselves to be baptized into the Passion and death of Christ, we allow him to take all of our fear, all of our hurt, and all of our sins to die with him on the Cross.

But even though in the humanity he borrows from us, Jesus is able to suffer the abandonment and death we have brought upon ourselves with our sins, these cannot hold onto the almighty power of his divinity. And so the Incarnate Son of God bursts forth from death, destroying death from the inside, and creating a path for all humanity to join him in the new and Risen life of a newly re-created world.

And through the utter generosity of God in Jesus Christ, the fruits of the Resurrection are available to us: freedom from anxiety, freedom from guilt, freedom from slavery to sin—and in the end, freedom from death itself. But you have to believe it.

People like to say, “Seeing in believing.” But, friends, in the case of the Resurrection, it’s the opposite—“Believing is seeing.” You have to believe if want to see Jesus Christ raised from the dead, the Risen Lord who is with us always.

Consider the beautiful Gospel we heard this Easter morning. After Mary Magdalene discovers Jesus’ tomb to be empty, Peter and the Beloved Disciple come to see what has happened. The Beloved Disciple enters the tomb, and the evangelist tells us that, “he saw and believed.”

He saw and believed. But think about it—he didn’t see anything. What he saw was an absence. He saw an empty tomb. What he believed was what the Lord had spoken during his earthly life, and this allowed the Beloved Disciple to see through the empty tomb to the Resurrection—and the Resurrection is the truth that suffering and death could not hold onto the Son of God.

Believe and you will see. Believe that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and you will see his Resurrected Life in the joyful eyes of those you love and in the trees and flowers that come back to life each year at this time. Believe and you will begin to see the re-creation, the renovation of the world in Christ wherever you look.

Believing is seeing, friends. Peter himself says this in his speech in the first reading: Jesus “was raised on the third day” and God “granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance.”

Today, this Easter Sunday, we are those witnesses chosen by God. We are chosen by God to have the power to see through all the difficulties and troubles of this world to the new life and hope that is the Resurrection of the Lord.

So let us rejoice today in our divine vocation! Let us believe in Jesus Christ risen from the dead. And let us see in every scrap of hope—the newness of Spring, the wonder in the eyes of children, the fact that no matter how troubled and violent this poor world becomes, people still insist of falling in love with each other—let us see in all these things the re-creating and renovating power of the Resurrection.

(Easter Sunday)


Hidden One said...

Truly, "the seeing of absence is not the absence of seeing."

Charles of New Haven said...

Great quote, Hidden One--where's it from?