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This is the last installment of the daily reflections for Lent this year. We hope that you have enjoyed your “delightful Lenten journey.” Special thanks to Father Chi Ai Nguyen, A.A. for generously sharing these reflections with the Assumption community, to our graduate assistant Tim Cody for producing the daily Gospel videos, and to the students, faculty, staff and friends who read for the Gospel videos. Happy Easter!
Deacon Paul Covino
Director of Campus Ministry
Beyond time and space
In the wake of Easter Sunday, we return to the story of the guards who were told to lie about the disappearance of Jesus’ body. This falsehood coming from religious authorities is contrasted with the full authority by which Jesus sent his disciples into the whole world: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-19). The struggle between falsehood and truth continues on our Easter Monday. Jesus’ victory over death and evil is definitive, but human free will remains intact. Humanity is still marked with its ups and downs. A new beginning is necessary.
Opening and ending
It is meaningful to read the ending of Matthew’s Gospel in comparison with its opening, namely the infancy narrative. In both, political and religious authorities worried about Jesus’ birth and resurrection. The news about Jesus was received by some (the magi and the women) but rejected by others. For his part, Jesus continued God’s plan despite his numerous opponents. When his initial plan failed, Herod continued to kill innocent children. When the chief priests could not secure the tomb, they carried out their initial intention by lying. They did not repent even though their thoughts were wrong from the beginning. They saw but they did not believe. The event of Jesus’ life did not have a positive impact on them.
Fearful yet overjoyed
An event can be seen differently by two people. It might give joy to one but put fear in another. What happened at the tomb is an example: “there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.” (28:2) Seeing this event, the guards were shaken with fear and became like dead men. For Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, this event didn’t lessen their fear. At the same time, however, it gave them great joy. They were “fearful yet overjoyed,” a mixture of feelings that do not usually form a pair. There was something different in their minds and hearts. And there was something different in their actions, too.
The past and the future
While the guards went into Jerusalem, the city where Jesus endured his Passion, the two women ran to invite the disciples to go to Galilee to meet the Risen Lord. The guards looked back to the past; the women turned to the future. The guards went to meet the chief priests who tried to suppress the news of the Resurrection. The women went to meet the disciples who would spread the message of the Risen Lord. On their way, they met the Risen Lord whom the angel had talked about at the tomb. In going to announce the news of the Resurrection, they met the Risen Lord in person.
Today, too, the Risen Lord is waiting for us. He precedes us to “our Galilee,” where men and women seek a word of joy and hope. Through the announcement of the Resurrection, we understand better our faith in the Risen Lord. Announce to understand better. Understand to announce better. And above all, we announce better and understand better if we cultivate the quality of our outlook. If we look at an event through the eyes of faith, we will understand it better. From the perspective of the Resurrection, something extraordinary can spring from an ordinary event. With the Risen Lord, we are to transform our daily reality into a privileged occasion of encounters with God and with one another.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are the master of time and space. Please continue to precede us to where we need to go.
Resolution: Write down all the places that I consider to be “my Galilee.”
Conclusion: Sing Alleluia and keep going!
We have travelled together during our Lenten journey. At the end of our pilgrimage, I would like to borrow some words from Saint Augustine’s Sermon 256: “let us sing now, not in order to enjoy a life of leisure, but in order to lighten our labors. You should sing as wayfarers do—sing, but continue your journey. Do not be lazy, but sing to make your journey more enjoyable. Sing, but keep going. What do I mean by keep going? Keep on making progress. This progress, however, must be in virtue; for there are some, the Apostle warns, whose only progress is in vice. If you make progress, you will be continuing your journey, but be sure that your progress is in virtue, true faith and right living. Sing then, but keep going.” Taking seriously Augustine’s advice, we are going to see how we keep making progress in virtue, faith and life beyond the Lenten season.
The Bible presents us with different ways of being virtuous. By following biblical characters with their ups and downs, we learn to become more human. We try to imitate their good example and avoid their mistakes. We really understand them only when we make ours their success. We remain in darkness when we do not prevent their failures from happening to us. But even in our darkness, we need to be more open to welcome the light into our lives. It is faith that helps us to see the light not only at the end of the tunnel, but also in the tunnel.
At a dark and challenging time, we are inclined to doubt: doubt about our capacity and courage, doubt about others’ friendship and their willingness to help, doubt about God and his goodness. But paradoxically, doubt is not the opposite of faith. Even more, doubt is an element of faith. It allows us to have an intelligent faith. Among various definitions of faith, I prefer that of Georges Bernanos, a French writer: “Faith is twenty-four hours of doubt, with a minute of hope”. To reassure us in our doubt, Bernanos says: “Faith is not a thing which one loses; we merely cease to shape our lives by it.” Even at a critical moment, we need to let our faith mold our lives.
Life is the most precious gift that we receive from God. This gift is not to be wrapped up and kept in a safe place. It is to be shared, sometimes in a risky way. In a situation where life is threatening, we become more aware of its value. But because of that awareness, we cannot keep something precious just for ourselves. The more we are willing to share the gift of life with others, the more we find the joy of being ourselves. We become ourselves when we take risks to give ourselves in the service of others. This service is not necessarily spectacular or heroic. It is through small gestures that we can make a difference in someone’s life.
Let us sing Alleluia and keep going. Let us keep going even when failure strikes us. Let us keep going even when doubt overwhelms us. Let us keep going when we risk our lives for the good of others. Christ is risen. And with him, we are risen, from our failures, our little deaths and the sting of death. Christ is risen and walks with us. Are we ready to walk with him?