When you saw the empty tomb, would you have believed?
On Ash Wednesday, our parish handed out a small booklet, “Returning to God,” a compilation of inspirations from Henri Nouwen, a popular writer of the last century.[i]
He noted that Jesus’ life was divided in two distinct parts, one in which he was acting and, the other, as he waited to be acted upon. Nouwen helps the reader see that passion is in part this: waiting to be acted upon, waiting to see what will happen.
In this sense, you live the passion.
to see whether that special someone will say yes;
to see whether your loved one will come home safe from war, or from that office party, or the senior prom;
to see whether that special job will come through;
to see whether your loved one will recover from illness.
You wait and, in that waiting, you experience anxiety, frustration or even fear.
You want relief. You want to rise above this pain and worry.
But sometimes, the “resurrection” you hope for does not come.
In reflecting on the Gospel for Easter Sunday,[ii] we see that Mary Magdalen did not think Jesus would rise again. She went to the tomb to anoint a dead body. She found the tomb empty. She did not understand.
Then, once informed by Mary Magdalen, Peter and John rush to the tomb. Peter entered, but he did not understand. Then John, the beloved disciple, entered. A great spiritual insight propelled him from grief into spiritual exultation. He saw and believed.
Where do you and I stand today? We have heard that Jesus has risen from the dead.
Do we really believe?
“John saw and believed,” one might say, “but I have not seen. How can I really believe?”
So many people have become blinded to the power of belonging. We have been conditioned to believe that each person is the center of his or her own universe.
It’s the mentality of the toddler: I exist, the world revolves around me.”
But if you once you say, “God exists,” and believe that he does exist, you can no longer fool yourself into believing that you are the center of all reality.
And then, if you are both mature and honest, you must pursue this God. You must hear this “Hound of Heaven,” this God who whispers to your soul, “I am here. I love you. Find me and discover what it means to be human, to be fully alive.”
This, dear brothers and sisters, is the only “resurrection” from anxiety, fear and hopelessness. We cast aside the old dough of “religion as usual” and run to the Word of God, to the unleavened Bread, the Eucharist, the Bread of Eternal Life.[iii]
Then, after hearing God’s Word and receiving Eucharist, we can no longer be fooled into believing that we are the center of all things. We can no longer be fooled into believing, and we can no longer say, that we have never seen God.
[i] Nouwen, Henri, All Saints Press, St. Louis, MO, paper, 32 pages, a compilation of a number of Nouwen’s inspirations edited by Steve Mueller.
[ii] Jn 20:109
[iii] 1 Cor 5:6-8