PRAYING THE RESURRECTION
‘Christian people are Easter People, and their song is Alleluia!’ So runs the oft-quoted statement by St Augustine. Easter is the season of celebration, joy and light. It is the scent of lilies in sun-lit churches, it is Easter gardens, new life and music of great power and energy. At Easter the Christian Faith appears to be its most attractive. The Risen Christ is a very magnetic personality; shunning the powers of death and hell; speaking quietly to friends in a garden and the upper room. It is almost too good to be true. Who would not desire to be one of the Easter People?
If it were that attractive and compelling the whole world would be Christian. The truth is that encountering the Risen Lord is an experience that challenges our way of thinking and being in a fundamental way. In overcoming death Jesus has removed the boundary markers in the human mind. Death, as a certainty, shapes all our unconscious lives. Death provides reasons for living in a selfish and materialistic way; ‘eat, drink for tomorrow you may die’ is the psychological prime mover for a pagan world. Death and the fear of death, shape our ethical outlook on all life and death issues. Where death leads to annihilation of the person – the terminus of being – voluntary euthanasia and abortion become clinical options or tools for social change. Neither of these is easily admitted into an understanding of the individual and a person created by God to live in growing communion with him for eternity. If God is subject to death, then anything is possible. To believe in Jesus Christ as the Resurrection and the Life radically alters a believer’s place in creation. To pray in the mystery of the Resurrection is to open our lives to the most powerful force in the universe – God who is Love. It is only human to fear the Divine. It is the same mighty power, St Paul tells the Ephesians, ‘working in us, that rose Jesus from the dead.’
Me and you
The revelation of the Resurrection was and is primarily a personal experience. It is not until Mary is called by a familiar name by Jesus that she recognizes him present before her as risen. Jesus had set the pattern for this need of personal acceptance of the resurrection at the death of Lazarus when he reveals himself to Martha as ‘The Resurrection and the Life,’ he then asks the crucial question ‘Do you believe this?’ It is only though individual acceptance that the Risen Christ can begin his work of renewing minds and hearts and re-centering the life of the believer around the things which last for ever. It is Jesus’ desire for each person to welcome him into his or her lives as Lord and God that is seen in the story of doubting Thomas. Thomas is one of the crowd, a loyal member of the disciples, in earlier passages he is seen as speaking to Jesus on behalf of the disciples; ‘come let us go with him’, and ‘Lord we do not know where you are going’. He is absent when Jesus reveals the Resurrection to the remaining ten. A week later Thomas still wrestles with testimony of others. It is not until he encounters Jesus himself that he comes to the personal declaration of faith; ‘my Lord and my God.’ It is not possible to have a second-hand faith in the resurrection. That is why individual Baptism is the way of Christian initiation.
The starting point of praying with the resurrection means taking the risk of being alone with the Lord; sharing with him the concerns of our heart; asking for grace to know his the power of his resurrection at work in our lives to change, re-order and renew that he might be My Lord and My God in all things.