There are times when we have to deal with big questions. And then there are times when big questions sear deeply into our identity, shake our consciousness, tear our hearts with guilt. They toss us about with fear, doubt, and loneliness. The big questions seem to be dealing with us. We might stay up at night wondering where we fit in God’s plan. Questions haunt us: Who am I? What is the purpose of my life? How will I go on from here?
When we’re haunted by these big questions, we are like the apostles after Calvary’s sorrow and the collapse of their hope, when rumors suddenly swirled around that some of them had seen Jesus alive. How they must have longed to see once again the face of their Beloved Master, and yet also perhaps felt their hearts shrink in the uncertainty of what his eyes would say to them.
The forty days of Easter before the Ascension are like an educative process. After the resurrection, Jesus doesn’t engage the apostles on the level of emotion. He becomes their guide through the complexities of their hearts and the events that left them fearing what God’s plan might be. To them, Jesus asserts the authority and gentle power of his presence: Do not be afraid. It is I.
For forty days, Jesus engages his apostles and disciples who are astonished at God’s way of acting in Christ now risen. For forty days, Jesus leads them on an educative process in which they learn to mistrust themselves, their interpretation of events, and their own evaluation of who they are before God. Instead they become convinced of the reasons for their faith, a faith so strong they would give their every moment and their very lives, witnessing to others, telling them who this Jesus is and what he’s done for them.
The Easter season teaches us anew that, in our hearts, we also have already risen with Christ and experience something even now of the heavenly Kingdom. In Baptism we have died with Christ and have received an initial grace, which is the point of departure, of gradually intensifying experiences of grace through prayer and sacramental encounters with the risen Lord. Each time we receive the Eucharist we are fed at the heavenly banquet. It is true that this interior glory, which is still mostly hidden within us, will burst forth only in the eschaton.
These days, may we learn the Easter lesson to not rely on our own experience, to trust God as our guide, and to let our souls continue in communion with God—no matter what inner storms toss our hearts.
Image Credit: Cathopic