20:1-9; Mark 16:1-7; Luke 24:13-25
Easter's Subtlety by Rev. Paul Scalia
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
Someone important fails to make an appearance on Easter Sunday. Namely, the risen Lord Himself. In the Gospel for Easter Mass He is conspicuously absent. The angels speak of Him and of His resurrection, but He Himself does not appear.
The empty tomb has more prominence. And if we look beyond Easter Sunday at the passages in which the Risen One does appear, we note that His appearances lack any sort of grandeur or splendor. He comes in a disguised manner to Mary Magdalen, to the Apostles at the Sea of Tiberias, and on the road to Emmaus (the optional reading from Luke for afternoon Mass on Easter Sunday). He enters the upper room silently and calmly. No thunder, no burst of light, no trumpet blast to announce Him.
Our Lord’s subtlety may surprise us. Why not make a big display of the resurrection? It is a historical event more important than the Super Bowl. It should have just as much – if not more – fanfare, right? After all, a big display would convince the world of His divinity. So why not make some noise? Why must Easter have such a subtlety about it?
The subtlety of Easter has everything to do with the gentleness and courtesy of God. Yes, He does at times use big displays of power to get our attention (as Saul of Tarsus can tell you). But that is rare, and we should not hope for it. More often than not He comes to us in a quiet, gentle, hidden way. He does not want to overwhelm us but to elicit from us the free response of faith.
God comes to invite us to Himself, and an invitation must be courteous. Without courtesy the divine invitation becomes a demand. . . and human freedom a dead letter. Thus Our Lord was born in the silence and obscurity of Bethlehem and spent most of His life hidden away in Nazareth. Even His public life was not that public. He preached and performed miracles, died and rose in an obscure area and with relatively few people knowing about it.
If we desire, then, to experience the joy of Easter we must be attentive. We must learn to find Him in His subtle, courteous workings. We should not expect, much less require, Him to prove Himself by an overwhelming display of glory.
Our Lord’s public life began in the desert, where He rejected the devil’s demands to awe him by His supernatural power. His public life concludes in a similar way: He invites us to put faith in His resurrection – not to be overpowered by it. We must be content with His invitation, His subtlety, His quiet. We must allow them to call forth our faith.
Consider, furthermore, the people to whom Our Lord appears. He does not go to His persecutors and executioners. He does not, as perhaps we would, visit Pilate, Annas and Caiaphas to vindicate Himself and to condemn the unjust trials of Good Friday. He does not avenge Himself on the guards and soldiers, on those who beat, scourged and crucified Him. Instead He appears to those who already believed, who had accompanied Him throughout the countryside and in His suffering.
So also we – if we desire our risen Lord to “appear” to us – we must have already accompanied Him through His preaching, to Jerusalem, and through His suffering and death. So many people lack genuine, lasting Easter joy precisely because they have not accompanied Our Lord beforehand. If we have not been with Him throughout His ministry, passion and death, we cannot rejoice as He desires us to in His resurrection.
Let us, then, since we have accompanied Him – since we have observed our time of penance and mortification, since we have mourned our sins and His death, since we have prepared our hearts for His life and love – let us then rejoice in His resurrection.
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