Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Spirituality: Why not us?
by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register
(From the April 12, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)
Once again our voices and even church decorations announce the arrival of the Easter feast! “Alleluia!” echoes anew in our liturgies and the praise of God’s glory, subdued now for 40 days, finds its way back into our time of worship. Generous bouquets of flowers bedeck church altars and the songs and hymns reflect the joy we have in Jesus, our Risen Lord.
During the next 50 days which lead to the fire of Pentecost we will have opportunity once again for spiritual growth as we hear afresh the Good News of what God has done for us in the One whose birth we celebrated months earlier. As we begin what the commercial world would love to call “Easter 2001” we are reminded of the vitality of the first community of Christians — how they shared everything in common; how God’s praises found free and frequent expression on their lips. Again we hear testimony of how those early disciples encountered Jesus himself risen from the dead and alive among them.
We hear this testimony of faith now in a new millennium and perhaps a tinge of jealousy grips our hearts. It certainly would have been marvelous to have lived in those times, we pine. With vivid imagination we ponder how our enthusiasm for the Lord and the ministry of the Church would be different had we lived then. Gone would be any doubt, hesitation or laziness, right? We imagine that we would lack no commitment or enthusiasm should have we been so blessed! How strong our faith would be and how ready we would be to give our personal testimony to the Risen Lord!
Yes, if only. If only we had lived in those times!
But then, we have not been so blessed. “They” were, but why not us? There is a tinge of disappointment in this longing for the good old days. We experience a little sadness as if we had been unjustly denied something reserved for the special and the few. After all, we pout, the times of Jesus have long passed. We feel distanced from those enthusiastic times and their obvious spirit of joy and sense of the immediate presence of the Risen Lord.
Our situation presents us with the same crisis of faith which has confronted Christians ever since the first news of the Resurrection has been announced. In a sense, in our hardness of heart we insist that we can believe only if we see Jesus himself — in the flesh, as it were. We insist that the Church and its mission cannot interest or enthuse us if we have not been blessed with the gift of having lived in the times of Jesus. In effect, we take the position that the Christian life and a personal relation with Christ is reserved for those few privileged persons who knew him at that specific moment in human history.
We can become unnecessarily fixated in our Christian walk because of this sense of spiritual stubbornness and blindness. It is true that experiencing Jesus raised from the dead — standing right in front of us — would have been awesome. It truly would have been marvelous to have numbered among the St. Thomases of that day who were invited to touch the wounds of the Lord’s glorified body. Indeed, Thomas and a few others enjoyed the privilege of touching Jesus in this sense — but that means nothing except the privilege of the moment. Touching Jesus in this manner does not confirm faith. In the end, it proves nothing. Faith must be a free decision that comes from the heart. To believe is a very personal and very profound decision that does not depend at all on the availability of the physical body of Jesus.
Thomas and those who shared his privileged moment believed because they had seen. More importantly — listening to the Lord’s words — blessed are we who believe without having been there, without having seen. There is no need to pine, “Why not us?” during this Easter season when we hear once again the testimony of the first Christians and their exciting experiences of the Risen Lord. In no way is it possible to return to those times. But it is not at all necessary to do so. The Lord Jesus is truly raised from the dead. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is as really present here and now — in our privileged moment — as he was for those first disciples. The physical body of Jesus is not the object of our faith but rather the reality of the living Christ present among us. There is no reason why our experiences of his resurrected life should be any different.
Even if the Lord would appear in our churches this weekend and invite us to touch his wounds, the need to make a personal act of faith would remain the same. The important element in the Christian journey of faith is not our encounter with the Jesus of history but our personal openness in faith to his presence among us now. To believe is not to have reached a moment of intellectual conviction but rather is a free decision from our hearts which allows Jesus, the Risen Lord, to appear to us on his own terms. Jesus the Risen Lord continues to reveal himself to the People of God — in our own time and in our own parishes and communities of faith. He continues to share his Holy Spirit with us and invites us to share in his mission of restoring a broken world to the wholeness which God intended for it.
(Father Savelesky is pastor of St. Patrick and St. Francis of Assisi parishes in Walla Walla. His latest book, Catholics
Believe, is available from Harcourt Religion Publishers.)
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