Easter is about seeing—seeing in a new way. The New Testament accounts of the resurrection help us see anew if we read them carefully. If we leave aside any conceptions about a resuscitated body and dwell on Jesus’ spiritual presence to his closest followers and their witness, we will come to see anew. Spiritual presence as the Celts remind us is real presence.
The accounts are pretty straight forward. A grieving Mary of Magdala comes to the tomb. It is empty. She still does not see. She stays at the tomb when the guys—who still do not see after entering the tomb—go back into hiding behind locked doors for fear of the Judeans and Romans. Mary’s faithful persistence pays off. She experiences the Risen Jesus and runs off to tell the others. They discount her experience. Then, gradually, on a series of first days—new life, new seeing—the rest, except for Thomas, come to see. Thomas becomes a witness for us who, not having seen, still believe that Jesus is risen to new life and that we all share in that life through the power of the Spirit. Jesus breathes new life into us and we become Jesus to the world.
The clarion call of Easter is clear. Wake up! See! See anew! Come out from behind locked doors. Abandon fear and dread.
Merton tells us that we “dread newness and freedom.” We dread newness, the uncertain. We want surety. Consider how much we insure things. We buy a new electronic device and buy insurance on it when we check out at the register. We buy government lies about our need for security. Our only security comes from Jesus. Our hope comes from seeing anew. Our life depends on seeing beyond the limits of rationality and security. Newness is the invitation in resurrected life.
Freedom is another matter. Originally, Merton thought that freedom was doing whatever he pleased when he pleased. Then, he sought freedom within the four walls—the structures of monastic life. Ultimately, he understood freedom as the ability to love Love (God) and to love others who were walking around shining like the sun, reflecting the divine image within.
Our freedom suspends us over an abyss. Scripture challenges us to choose life or choose death. If we exercise our freedom only for ourselves and ignore the common good—the needs of others—we will fall headlong into a bottomless abyss of death and despair. If we surrender to Love—Love incarnate within each one of us—we will fall into an abyss of Divine mercy and Compassion. God’s chesed will love us into life. Merton wrote in The Sign of Jonas, “I have always overshadowed Jonas with my Mercy (chesed) . . . Have you had sight of me, Jonas My Child? Mercy within mercy within mercy.”
Amid the dread and angst of daily life with its routines and challenges, our greatest challenge is to see anew. Richard Rohr says that we grow through love and suffering. He has an unique but simple definition of suffering. Suffering is when I am not in control. Bingo! Right on target! Home run! We grow when we let go as Jesus let go, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit.” We grow when we love as Jesus loved.
We can only let go if we can see anew, if we can catch a glimpse of the Risen Jesus. He may be a gardener. He may be a homeless person. He may be a hungry child. He may be an unwed mother. He may be the poorest of the poor. He may be a cancer patient. He may be a refugee or an immigrant laborer. He may be anyone. We know we see anew when we see Jesus in the least among us and do something to alleviate their misery.