Yet the star of hope has risen

2009-10-03-the-morning-star-paradox“Christ descended into ‘Hell’ and is therefore close to those cast into it, transforming their darkness into light.  Suffering and torment is still terrible and well-nigh unbearable.  Yet the star of hope has risen–the anchor of the heart reaches the very throne of God.  Instead of evil becoming unleashed within man, the light shines victorious: suffering–without   ceasing to be suffering–becomes, despite everything, a hymn of praise.”  (Benedict XI, Spes Salvi)

Grounded in faith

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“And so that Mary Magdalene would ground herself in faith, he refused to allow her to touch his feet after the resurrection.” (John of the Cross A.2.11.7)

“. . . even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer.” (2 Cor 5.16b)

Even in our weeping

I have always been intrigued by the story of Mary Magdalene at the tomb.  Perhaps this is because I have spent too many hours of my life not recognizing the Lord even as He is standing there beside me.  I can get stuck in the mode of: “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.”  I too easily focus on that, rather than on having faith that He will never, ever forsake me.  My prayer should instead be: “Lord, give me eyes to see.”

Needless to say, I was struck by this reflection in Magnificat on yesterday’s readings:

Despite the miraculous apparition of two angels sitting in the open tomb, “one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been,” Mary Magdalene remains unmoved, consumed only by her grief.  Two times heaven has to ask her (once via the angels, the second time by the risen Lord himself), “Woman, why are you weeping?” She has come to her own fatalistic conclusion about what happened to Christ–“They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him”–and it is from this pessimism that she must be converted.  When the risen Jesus speaks her name–“Mary!”–the Magdalene, like the Jewish people on the day of Pentecost, was “cut to the heart.”  The risen Christ’s command to “stop holding on” pertains to our preconceptions and stubbornness as well.  Something Greater than our sorrow is now at work in the world.  It is the reason why, even in our weeping, we bend over and peer into the tomb, full of expectation.

First, we must cry out

Here’s a comforting take on the story of the road to Emmaus by Fr. David May from Madonna House:

The Gospel is the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  They are discussing the events of the Lord’s passion and death when suddenly Jesus comes up and joins them on the way.  They take him for a stranger and are astonished that he seems unaware of what has happened.

Have you ever had that experience?  When it seems that Jesus Christ is the only one who doesn’t know what is happening down here!

“What things?” he asks. “What things?!

In his wisdom, the Lord wants to draw out of his disciples all the pain and sorrow they are carrying.  It seems that the Lord has more respect and understanding of our human nature than we do ourselves.

He knows our grief; he understands all our suffering.  But he also knows that first we must speak our pain to him.  First, we must cry out.

For how will we be able to hear what he has to offer until we do so?  And he has far more to offer us than mere sympathy for our plight.

Fr. David goes on to speak of what Jesus offers to these disciples in pain, and what He offers as well to us:

He offers them more than sympathy because as the Risen Lord, he can offer them a hope they had not dared to imagine.  He offers them a victory that comes only through suffering and death: Resurrection from the dead.

He will surely come:

In an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, the Lord can reveal himself, and after that, everything is transformed.  In a second, at the breaking of the bread, he is recognizable to his disciples in Emmaus.  And then he vanishes from sight!

This, too, is part of his mystery, of his unfathomable ways.

“. . . for they shall see God”

It’s still the time, the season, of remembering Christ’s appearances to those He loved.  Let us not move too quickly back into ordinary time.  (Is there ever an “ordinary” time with Christ in our lives?)  Luci Shaw captures this need to learn to recognized Him in this Sunday-poem.  We, too, need to “get beyond the way he looks” in our everyday lives:

He who has seen Me has seen the Father (James Tissot)

“. . . for they shall see God”

Matthew 5.8

Christ risen was rarely
recognized by sight.
They had to get beyond the way he looked.
Evidence strong than his voice and face and footstep
waited to grow in them, to guide
their groping from despair,
their stretching beyond belief.

We are as blind as they
until the opening of our deeper eyes
shows us the hands that bless
and break our bread,
until we finger
wounds that tell our healing,
or witness a miracle of fish
dawn-caught after our long night
of empty nets.  Handling
his Word, we feel his flesh,
his bones, and hear his voice
calling our early-morning name.

~Luci Shaw