We Will Rise Again and Again and Again
Sharing our resurrection stories
Dr. Jo Ann Paradise Comments Off on We Will Rise Again and Again and Again
Working in parish ministry for 45 years now, I do not once recall planning for the Easter season. There were many extended meetings about Advent that included what exactly is the shade of purple that denotes the season. There were even longer meetings about Lent. How do we facilitate making room for the Holy Spirit to break open someone’s heart, admit her or his sinfulness and experience God’s mercy? We may have planned for Pentecost Sunday, answering the age-old question, “Do we tell everyone to wear red that day?” Easter season never crossed our minds or hearts.
Currently, the Church’s emphasis on kerygmatic catechesis invites us to turn our catechetical energy to Christ’s participation in salvation history. How do we tell the good news of salvation when we only emphasize the historical event of the Resurrection and its meaning on only one Sunday? It may be the understanding of many that the only connection between the Resurrection and their life is the opening of the gates of heaven. We have a fundamental problem in our faith. It seems our community is not able to daily join their personal life experience to the story of salvation. The first step in re-evangelization is helping our people to understand what Christ has done and is now doing in their lives.
The first step is to help people identify how they understand their relationship with God. Some people live with an understanding that God is at a distance and will sometimes intervene in their human journey. He comes from the “heavens” to make mountains of struggles or straighten paths to ease suffering. In this situation, we can imagine God and ourselves as separate pieces of different-colored rope. The two ropes are wide apart and never touch one another except in dramatic circumstances.
Others may picture their relationship with God as two pieces of rope that are intertwined. There are numerous places where they touch. They are still separate yet joined as close as the two pieces of crisscrossed rope. At the Incarnation, however, God invited us into an even deeper union. God chose to become truly human. Those two pieces of rope are now joined in a miraculous way. The threads of the ropes are interwoven. At baptism, our human journey is made one with Jesus’ human and divine story. When St. Paul says that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ (cf. Rom 8:39), he means for us to take that literally. I live in Christ and Christ lives in me. I constantly experience the Paschal Mystery in my life as it lives in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
Do you see your hands at your temples making the mind-blowing gesture? Our responsibility and privilege are to accompany people at every age and stage of development to understand and experience this astonishing truth. This leads us back to the Resurrection.
A current television commercial reports that we make 35,000 decisions a day. Of course, there are varying weights to those decisions. Many of them, though, are the decisions we make in response to moments of challenge when in some way we experience a death. Everyday deaths, such as dying to the single life to married life; not getting into the college of your choice; dying of the dream your team will make it to the Super Bowl; being betrayed by a friend; being falsely accused of a dreadful action; a terminal diagnosis of a loved one; losing a job; a divorce; a death. If we live in Christ, we trust that he will make good out of every evil. He offers us life in death.
The Easter season invites us to reflect upon the ways God acts in our lives in exactly that way. It provides the opportunity to hear people’s witness of how they have experienced that in their faith journeys. Why is this necessary? We need to hear those stories over and over again to help us trust that this is true. It is the most powerful way to hear Christ say, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rv 21:5).
There is a woman I know that seems like she is the contemporary Job. Her husband died of cancer at a young age. Her first daughter became addicted to drugs and had a child that they raised together. Her son married a woman with mental challenges. Her youngest daughter was murdered by her boyfriend’s best friend. And she now has learned that her 16-year-old granddaughter has multiple sclerosis. Her first response when sharing the latest news was, “I know God will get us through this, so pray for us.”
She lives in Christ and the power of his resurrection. That’s the good news that needs to be shared during the Easter season — the whole season! Help your parish find ways to tell their resurrection stories.
DR. JO ANN PARADISE is a national speaker, writer and thought leader in the field of faith formation.