Pastor's Pen, 3rd Sunday of Easter

One of the most interesting things about almost all the first resurrection accounts is that the disciples and apostles did not recognize the Risen Lord.  For example, Mary Magdalene thought he was a gardener; St. Peter though he was a man standing on the beach; and today, two disciples though the Risen Lord was simply an intriguing conversationalist.  There are times in our lives, sometimes short, sometimes prolonged, in which it is difficult to recognize the presence of the Risen Lord.  We may feel our prayer is dry or that we have been abandoned in suffering.  At other times, especially when things are going well and smoothly, it is easier for us to feel his closeness.  And so we may say “Praise the Lord,” or “Alleluia.”  Because we judge the quality of our faith by these experiences of closeness or dryness, we can slip into a temptation.  The temptation is that, unintentionally, we begin to desire God’s graces more than God himself. While understandable, do we not become like a reed blowing in the wind, to cite an image that Jesus often used.    

In the resurrection accounts, it is not the resurrection itself that leads to conversion; rather it is the personal encounter with a person, that is, an encounter with the Risen Lord.  With Mary Magdalene it was how the Risen Lord lovingly spoke her name; with Peter it was how the Risen Lord tenderly prepared breakfast; and with the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus it was how he intently broke the bread.  The resurrection is not a cure for our problems.  It does not mean that we will no longer mourn.   It does not mean that we will no longer be sad.  And, it does not mean that we will no longer suffer.  But it does mean that we will never be left alone, unloved and struggling by ourselves.  In the sadness and confusion that is Mary’s and Peter’s and the two disciples’, the Risen Lord was there.  More and more I am coming to know that conversion, redemption, salvation or transformation is not about doing things more strictly.  It is not about praying longer, so that God will owe me something.  It is not about following the moral law more closely so that I can justify myself before God.  Rather it is about opening our hearts and saying “Lord, I feel alone.  I need you and I want you,” or saying “Lord, I feel mean and small.  I need you and I want you,” or saying, “Lord, I feel confused and lost, I need you and I want you,” or saying, “I feel overwhelmed, I need you and I want you.”  

I know that I almost always talk about God’s love.  I do so because in the emptiness and poverty of my own heart I don’t know what else there is.  I want to hear the Risen Lord speak my name with the love with which he spoke Mary’s name.  I want to be cared for as the Risen Lord cared for Peter on the beach.  I want to be led from death to life as the Lord did with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  I know that the Risen Lord will always share his graces with us.  But of even more importance for our hearts, is to know that the Risen Lord is.  And because He is, He is always in our lives.  And, we are always in His life.  To the Risen Lord, with one voice of love, we say, “We need you and we want you.”

God Bless and Take Care!

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