Friday, April 5, 2013

People of the Resurrection

I believe there is a temptation among Christians today to view ourselves as people of the Cross. Christians, whether we like it or not, are among the most persecuted peoples in the world. Although here in the U.S. the persecution is really one more of words and defamation than anything else, in other areas of the world Christians are murdered simply because they are Christian. Whether our reputations are murdered by the media and popular public opinion or our bodies are murdered by those who hate us and do not want to hear the Gospel message of Jesus Christ, one cannot deny that we are a persecuted people. In reaction to this ongoing persecution many Christians (I would venture to say most) have emphasized our participation in the sufferings, the Cross, of Christ. This is done almost to the point that we forget that in reality we are people of the Resurrection. As St. Paul points out to us, without the Resurrection the Cross is meaningless and our faith is in vain.

But what does it mean to be people of the Resurrection? How do we live in the light of the Resurrection and the hope of future glory in the coming Kingdom? This morning, while praying Safro (Maronite Morning Prayer) a couple of beautiful prayers illumined some answers for me. In the opening prayer we prayed:

"O Lord,
Allow us to share the joy of the apostles and holy women
on this glorious morning when they carried the good news.
Today, let their joy be ours, for in spite of two thousand years
this event which we commemorate is always present..."

It is often difficult to remember that Christ's Resurrection, although it is a fixed moment in history, is always present with us. It is an ongoing moment that we enter into through holy Baptism and we participate in through our participation in the life of the Church, Christ's Body. The Resurrection is now. Do we experience the joy of this moment in the same way as the apostles and myrrh-bearing women experienced it? Imagine the joy that Mary Magdalene experience when she realized the man in the garden was Jesus! He is alive! He is risen! Do we experience that same joy? Do we reflect that joy in our lives and attitudes? The first prayer of Safro has this to say:

"O Christ,
may we understand the meaning of your resurrection
so that we may not see in it a purely historical event
or only a foundation of our faith,
but a life which we must realize in ourselves every day,
a hope which we must draw each moment from our faith,
so that our souls may become just by your life,
and our hope may be united to your hope,
and in your kingdom we shall glorify you face to face.
Both here and there we shall praise you with a ceaseless love, forever."

The Resurrection is not simply a historical event; nor is it merely the foundation of our faith. It is both of these and so much more. The Resurrection is a life that we enter into through Baptism and that we must live every day. It is a life filled with joy and hope despite, or perhaps because of, the sufferings and persecutions that we undergo. The Cross is not something to focus on. It is passing. When we enter into the Cross of Christ we also enter into His hope that the Father will raise Him up in glory on the third day after His death. Since we have been raised in glory in Christ, do we rejoice in the Father Who has raised us up with Christ? Do we radiate the joy of Christ, the light that burst forth from the empty tomb? We cannot evangelize the culture around us by beating our chests and saying "Woe is me" because we are made to suffer here and now. We suffer, yes, but the battle is over and Christ is victorious! Why do we hang our heads as though we've been defeated? A priest I once knew used to say, "We know who wins." Indeed we do. We know Who has already won. We ought to rejoice in the victory of Christ and radiate the light of the Victorious One. When we are joyful in Christ, when we radiate the glory of the Resurrection, only then will the darkness in the world around us be dissipated.

Christ is risen!

Shout that out at the top of your lungs and let those words penetrate to the depths of your being. Our God is alive and with us always! What seemed like defeat was turned into victory. So too today. Despite everything, let us continue to live in the reality of the Resurrection, rejoicing in our hope in Christ and in God our loving Father. May heaven consume us! CHRIST IS RISEN!!!

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