WelCom April 2021
Transformation is a word that comes to mind. In the Northern Hemisphere the transformation of Easter coincides with the miracle of spring whereas in Aotearoa New Zealand that transformation occurs in early autumn amidst the harvest and ripening of summer, the planting of bulbs, and allowing the land to become fallow.
Even so, the power of the resurrection of Jesus is just as evident, only different, because Good Friday is not the last word in our faith story. Neither is the tomb or cemetery our permanent home, simply because if the death of Jesus had been the last word in our story of salvation and redemption then our own particular story of faith and love would also end at the grave. Easter Sunday tells us that it does not. This grace-filled mystery of transformation is for everyone and, as the mystics remind us, for all of creation, for all seasons of the year, and all seasons of life.
The theologian, Elizabeth Johnsen, portrays the transforming grace of the resurrection of Jesus as always surprising: ‘It does not come when you expect it but when you least expect it, and when it does come it is highly personal.’ It is also deeply communal.
Look, for example, at the recent visit of Pope Francis to Iraq. What a wonderfully transforming experience that was, not only for the remnant of the Christian faith community, but for all of Iraq. He brought peace, renewed understanding, and fresh dialogue as he reached out in love to our Muslim brothers and sisters. Pope Francis did this by focussing on what Christians and Muslims have in common with all of humanity and so regifted individuals with dignity and the community with the peace and healing so central
“If we are like Mary Magdalene, and find ourselves standing before a tomb, and searching for God; or, like Peter, and running out of puff; or, like John, and sprinting ahead, impatiently waiting for everyone else to catch up, they encourage us in giving our own unique witness to the resurrection of Jesus.”
A number of advisers to Pope Francis spoke openly about their misgivings that this pilgrimage should even occur. The twin threats of violence and Covid made the journey very dangerous. Pope Francis went anyway, with one commentator observing, ‘we underestimated his stubbornness!’ The courage of Pope Francis reminds us personally and communally that death and disease is never the final word. Rather, when we live by the courage of the gospel, we, like him, reopen the door for the risen Christ to be present in our communities and uniquely present for those in need of the peace the risen Lord brings.
No matter where we find ourselves on this Easter journey of faith, in our search for God, and in our search for love and truth, three apostles, who were among the first witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus, encourage us to stay the course of faith. If we are like Mary Magdalene, and find ourselves standing before a tomb, and searching for God; or, like Peter, and running out of puff; or, like John, and sprinting ahead, impatiently waiting for everyone else to catch up, they encourage us in giving our own unique witness to the resurrection of Jesus.
These three disciples invite us to remember that the resurrection of Jesus is not something that happens in the future, and neither does it begin at our death – even though the fullness of the resurrection does. The transformative grace of the resurrection begins for us at baptism – this is everlasting life now, and it is revealed every day in our trust, in our charity, in our forgiveness, and in our compassion.
Michael McCabe is parish priest at Our Lady of Kāpiti Parish.