Finding the hidden Christ
Peter Gallagher SJ shares the Easter joy behind the emptiness of the tomb.
At first Mary of Magdala is annoyed at what has happened. They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have put him. We can share her irritation. Our friend Jesus has been taken from us and there is no proper explanation. Uneasily we acknowledge our own part in what has happened. For the Son of God’s suffering and death we feel some responsibility.
Where have we put him?
More than once we have lost Jesus, have we not? More than once we have buried him. We have rolled a seemingly immovable stone in front of where we have concealed him. We may have interred him so efficiently that we have forgotten the place. More than once the absence of Jesus Christ from our life has felt like our own doing. The Son is killed by malice but also by neglect. We are capable of committing evil but often we merely omit to do good.
Jesus may seem to have disappeared from our life. There has been neglect of prayer, worship in which we properly engage, attention to the Scripture, involvement in the Sacraments and in charity. Jesus has disappeared: can we celebrate resurrection? We hear of troubles all over the world: our own life may be full of difficulty. ‘Where is Jesus in all this?’ we ask. Can we give him Easter glory? What has been done with him? Is it our neglect that has concealed him? Or has he been overwhelmed by even greater forces?
Recognising the Risen Lord
In the case of Mary of Magdala, these questions turn quickly enough to joy. She discovers that the Lord is risen. What about us? We share her sense of loss but can we join her in the rediscovery of Christ? Even she did not immediately recognise him. Can we also undertake the task of recognising Jesus? Can we begin to see the Risen Lord active in our world and in our life?
Finding the risen Jesus is one of our most important tasks. God helps us to find his Son after the resurrection but we need to acknowledge that that finding is a challenge for us. Part of the discovery of the resurrection is that now among our resources, among the strengths hidden within us, is the presence in our life of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This presence is not only hidden it is also close, and felt and active.
Far from being on our own, we are now accompanied and befriended in a way which entirely changes our understanding. From now on we know that to feel alone and to be deeply dismayed at the state of the world will be to be invited to renew our commitment to Christ. The beauty and goodness of the world have been extended
What about that early thought that the disappearance of Jesus might be our fault? What a relief to discover that whatever we might have done in the past to get rid of Jesus, we have not succeeded. He is risen and we are forgiven. We begin again with the Lord in new life. So there is great relief this Easter morning as we renew our faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As with Mary of Magdala, the truth dawns on us, and we feel a burden lifted. Now comes Easter joy.
The resurrection is not just the ultimately happy ending of a story which looked as if it was going to be a tragedy. Our Easter alleluia is more than a ‘phew’ that something awful did not after all overtake us. We are secure now not just in having escaped something awful but in having entered into and accepted something infinitely better. The Father has raised the Son from the dead and us from our sins. We share now in the divine life: in the life of God.
Now the life you have is hidden with Christ
Saint Paul put it this way: Now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. Paul here recalls that first indignant reaction of Mary of Magdala, and possibly our own first feeling of being bereft, or robbed or of being in solitude. We who are with him have to learn about the hiddenness of his life which we now share. Is there indignation at not understanding everything right away, and at being misunderstood and perhaps made fun of? Is there fear that the hiddenness might be a furtiveness or secretiveness? Is our faith something too strange to allow other people to look at? There is mystery, certainly, but nothing covert or underhand.
The only secret is just how much the grace of God will enable us to do! We are graced with the understanding we need for our share in the mission of Jesus. And as for being ourselves misunderstood, this is hard to avoid. Nevertheless the companionship of Jesus and his disciples brings with it much mutual comprehension and fellow-feeling so the blank looks and even hostility of other people are easier to bear.
And there is joy in this hidden life. To be hidden with Christ is to know the deepest of satisfactions. Perhaps the hiddenness is our prayer. Perhaps it is our good works. If the risen Lord is found in the heart of each of us, what joy for us! We have faith and trust for what lies ahead. All of this is hidden in God.
He awaits our delighted discovery.
Peter Gallagher SJ