On the day of his Resurrection, Jesus Christ appeared to his disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you!” to teach us that one of the principal signs that a person is leading a new life, that is, an interior and spiritual life, and is risen with Jesus Christ is when the person enjoys interior peace.
– St. John Baptist de La Salle –
What are we to make of the resurrection? It is a central, constitutive dimension of our belief.
“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Strong words, and true.
Here is one story that I read years ago and that may be helpful.
Early one Sunday morning, a man and three young children entered an almost empty subway car. While the dazed man quietly sat there, the children were running around, shouting, playing with things the other four or five passengers had or held, and generally getting everyone more and more upset. Finally, one passenger walked over, tapped the man on the shoulder and said: “Look, buddy. Can’t you control your children? They’re causing a ruckus.” The man came out of his daze, looked up, and quietly said: “Oh, yeah. I guess I should do something. It’s probably the only way they can express themselves right now. See, we’re coming from the hospital where their mom just died.” Silence. Instantly, the entire group in the car did a “metanoia” in their hearts and minds. Anger and frustration immediately turned into sympathy, compassion, and empathy, which they expressed verbally and temperamentally. Their limited personal reality embraced a newly known reality, and this changed them profoundly.
There is another story that during the Napoleonic wars, as a British ship approached a French ship and was ready to fire its cannons, the French ship put up a flag of truce. Fearing a trap, the British approached cautiously. The French captain came on board, carrying newspapers from Europe and told the British captain that a treaty had been signed and peace had been declared, showing the newspaper headlines as proof. The British captain exclaimed: “This changes the world for me!” Animosity and a destructive will flipped and became acceptance, happiness, and even comradeship, which they expressed verbally and temperamentally. Their limited personal reality embraced a newly known reality, and this changed them profoundly.
The story in the New Testament relates a similar dynamic, but on a much deeper, grander scale. Jesus preached faith, love, and forgiveness but this led to taunting, mockery, and crucifixion. Why doesn’t he come down from the cross? If he is God, why silence? “Jesus died in silence, inside God’s silence and inside the world’s incomprehension [of tragically unfair suffering, wars, disasters, pandemics, daily evil, and deep pain] … Where is God in all of this? What’s God’s answer? God’s answer is in the resurrection of Jesus and in the perennial resurrection of goodness within life itself. … Peace does triumph over chaos. Forgiveness does triumph over bitterness. Hope does triumph over cynicism. Fidelity does triumph over despair. Virtue does triumph over sin. Conscience does triumph over callousness. Life does triumph over death.”
Christian faith is a personal invitation to have our limited personal reality embrace the newly known reality of the resurrection, and to be changed profoundly by it; to trust that truth. “[T]he most grateful people we know are those with little apparent reason for being so”, writes Philip Yancey. All the popularly famous figures he interviewed were “as miserable a group of people as I have ever met.” But the unknown saints and servants he interviewed “clearly emerge as the favored ones, the graced ones. … Somehow, in the process of losing their lives they have found them. They have received the ‘peace that is not of this world.’” He was surprised that he came to envy them.
Theology agrees. “To be a Christian now requires a personal decision, the kind of decision that brings about a change of heart and sustains long-term commitment. … [A] mature spirituality requires integrating the basic experiences of one’s life into a wholeness before God … [including] the marvelous truth that God’s own self has drawn near as the inmost dynamism and goal offered to the world.” The center holds when God’s presence is near, real, active, and engaged.
It is faith that makes the difference. “Faith encodes the long experience of humanity as it has sought to understand and respond to the mystery of existence. It helps us to live better, more generously, with less fear and more delight than we might otherwise have done.” Life is changed, not ended.
Now look at the opening quotation from De La Salle again and read it from this perspective.
With the resurrection, God reaches out a hand, inviting us to hold on as we are drawn out of our anger and frustration, animosity and destructiveness, towards a new life, a profoundly interior and spiritual life where peace is the foundational reality and life is deeply transformed. Really & Truly!
- What experience, insight, or circumstance “has changed the world” for you?
- What could you personally do to foster a more deeply interior life and foundational peace?