Have you ever had the floor pulled out from underneath you?
Have you ever completely lost your footing?
Have you had something happen right out the blue that disrupted your life and foiled your plans?
It’s the body blows we don’t expect that can shake us. Turn us upside down. Give us a sense of free falling and disorient our sense of purpose, meaning and place. It would be nice if this never happened to us… but it happens to us. Some of us recover fairly quickly. Some of us struggle for a long time. Some of us wander and remain lost.
That… was the crucifixion.
That’s what the cross did to his followers, many of whom had given up much in order to follow him. Who had found their way by believing the words and counting on the promises of a man who claimed to be much more than just a man. In Jesus, everything made sense. For so many of them, they finally felt as though they had arrived, had found their place. But then, just like that, it was over.
So, they scattered. Fled. Some returned to their former lives. Some hid. I suspect many didn’t know what to do.
But then… there were the murmurings. Hints and whispers. Accounts of his return. Not in the mist as some type of spirit, but truly back. As in… in the flesh. In today’s gospel, he ate baked fish right in front of some of them. He was real.
There was the free falling. But then… then…
The accounts of Jesus during the Easter season contain stories of him being recognized. Recognized in his interpreting the stories of faith. Recognized in the breaking of bread. Recognized in his presence. Recognized in the marks of his suffering.
The key is recognition. And today, during this Mass, we will seek to recognize him in the very same way. Stories of faith. Breaking of bread. Presence.
The accounts of Jesus during the Easter season contain stories of the followers coming back together, of being reunited, of finding their footing, of regaining their sense of balance and then, moving forward through what we refer to as the New Testament and then the Catholic Church… to bring together all that the cross had scattered. A synonym for reunification is reconciliation.
The Easter message is, I believe, one of recognition and reconciliation. It speaks to the importance of the followers actively seeking and finding Jesus and then of coming together, of reuniting.
This past year has been one of separation. The pandemic has done that to so many of us. And technology, meant to connect us has increasingly done the opposite. The evidence is mounting that our reliance on social media and digital means of communication have actually increased isolation and loneliness. The political dialogue within our country, world and even Church, frequently pushes us away from each other, to the periphery and toward a form of tribalism. We increasingly identify, it seems, with the group we’re in, marked by geography, beliefs, race, and more… and that only serves to further divide us.
I fear that as a society, we are becoming less and less inclined to meet in the middle, to recognize our differences and to amicably discuss whatever it is that we disagree about. In a proper argument, each side has the interests of the other in mind, seeking to persuade, educate and point toward truth. Unfortunately, we now often speak in the language of conquest, hoping to defeat or even destroy the other. This is, sad to say, all around us.
The world needs an Easter season, marked by a coming back together. Of reuniting. Of reconciling. And… as we seek the truth… to recognizing Christ in everything. And in everyone.
Pipe dream? Lofty, unrealistic, Pollyanna vision? Perhaps.
But I am going to see what I can do. I am going to try to live a true Easter season.
I am going to look for Christ and recognize him in this faith, this Church, these stories of hope and inspiration. I am going to look for him in the stranger. In my enemy. I am going to try to bring together. To be a person of goodwill to those who are at the other edge, far away from where I am. To engage in the town square not with the language of conquest, but of reconciliation. I know I can do better.
And I think that if I can recognize Jesus in others… though love and forgiveness… then I can help others recognize Jesus too.
Easter is all about…
Recognizing and reconciling.
I’m going to try harder.
Might you join with me?