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One of my favorite scripture verses is John 20:15, when Jesus finds Mary Magdalene crying at the door of the tomb and says to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” In that moment, Jesus isn’t asking a rhetorical question. He wants to know why we worry and sob and fret when hope is underneath everything, if we could just tap into it.
Easter is about liberation, and it’s especially meaningful for a person like me who feels chained to moodiness and negativity so much of the time. The celebration of the resurrection is a chance for us to say, “Yes, Jesus, I believe,” and in so doing, grab the hope that is already there. Here, then, are nine ways we might live the resurrection.
1. Go Ahead and Touch Him
“Why are you troubled?” Jesus says to the disciples in Luke’s gospel when he appears to them after his resurrection. “Why do questions arise in your hearts? Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”
Now if I were one of those guys, not only would I be troubled, but I can guarantee I wouldn’t go near the hands and feet. I would be afraid that everything I told that Ouija board at a fourth grade slumber party was now starting to register there on “the other side.”
But I do find huge relief in Jesus’ reassurance that his resurrection is the real deal. This is not some Jesus-on-grilled cheese that got sold for a few thousand bucks on eBay. Jesus is real; the resurrection is real; therefore, his promises are real. That means we can trust him when he tells us that he will be with us until the end of age (Matt 28:20).
2. Know that God is Good
In the days before his death, Jesus repeats that he was sent on behalf of his Father. In fact, the wording in many of his miracles, especially the raising of Lazarus, points back to the goodness of the Creator: “For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed” (John 5:20).
Blessed Angela of Foligna, a 14th century mother and wife who later became a prominent mystical writer, wrote that “the first step that the soul must take when it enters the way of love, through which it desires to reach God, is to know God in truth…. To know God in truth is to know him as he is in himself, to understand his worth, beauty, sweetness, sublimity, power, and goodness, and the supreme Good inherent in him who is the supreme Good.”
I think that, right there–trusting that God is good and is there for us (unlike so many other people we know)–is the point of the resurrection. Is God good? Yes. We can say that with confidence because of the resurrection.
3. Turn It Over to Him
The third step of most 12-step recovery programs is to “turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.” The first three steps, which are the most important, can be summed up this way: “I can’t” (first step), “He can” (second step), and “I think I’ll let Him” (third step).
Or if you want to take a more sophisticated route, read Saint Thomas’ words: “Sanctity consists in nothing else than a firm resolve, the heroic act of a soul abandoning herself to God. By an upright will we love God, we choose God, we run toward God, we reach Him, we possess Him.”
Every time we tell God, “Take it from me,” we are living the resurrection, because we are remembering God’s promise that He will provide for us, that He didn’t leave His Son hanging, and that, despite what our inner skeptics might claim, He is truly trustworthy.
4. Cast out Fear
In Matthew’s resurrection narrative, an angel of the Lord appears to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at the empty tomb and says to them, “Be not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.” Later Jesus met the women and repeated, “Do not be afraid.”
Maybe, just maybe, what Jesus is saying here, is (surprise!) to not be afraid.
Not that casting out fear is an easy thing to do. But if we manage to do it, even in baby steps, we’ll get further away from the sorrow of the cross and closer to wonders of the empty tomb.
As the late Trappist monk Thomas Merton wrote, “Fear narrows the little entrance of our heart. It shrinks up our capacity to love. It freezes up our power to give ourselves.”
5. Go Public
Another repetition in all the resurrection accounts is Jesus’ commandment to go tell it on the mountain. Even if you risk looking like a fool, tell people that the resurrection really happened. Not that we have to become annoying televangelists. But in everything we do and say, our words and deeds should always come back to the resurrection, spreading the hope of that story to everyone we meet.
6. Stay Humble
If Jesus is God, and there is only one God (assuming that you hang in monotheistic circles), then that means this: none of us is God.
That is another important truth of the resurrection: God became man; man didn’t become God. I know that I often get the two confused, especially when I’m on the phone with a health-care insurance representative, because I feel like I should have more power than I do.
The Christian mystic Catherine of Siena wrote, “Be small in deep and genuine humility. Look at God, who lowered Himself to your humanity. Don’t make yourself unworthy of what God has made you worthy of.”
Along with humility, then, comes our ability to become more than we are because of the resurrection. It’s like the makeover we can’t afford to have–but God can provide it for us if we believe in the empty tomb.
7. Walk the Road to Emmaus
I have always been intrigued by Luke’s story about the Road to Emmaus, when Jesus does exactly what I do to my kids when I want the real skinny on something: He plays dumb.
Two disciples are on their way to a village called Emmaus when Jesus approaches them and asks what they are talking about.
“Are you kidding me?” the one named Cleopas responds, “You really aren’t filled in on all the gossip that’s going down these days?”
The disciples continue to be a tad dense. They finally figure it out when Jesus sits down to eat with them and breaks bread. But as soon as they get smart to his presence, Jesus disappears.
We have an opportunity to walk the Road of Emmaus every day if we agree with Saint Leo the Great, who said, “To share Christ’s resurrection means not to be shackled by temporal things but to set our hearts on the eternal life he is offering us here and now…. Our resurrection has already begun in Christ, and he longs to lead us into the fullness of life and healing.”
8. Pray Always and Everywhere
My favorite line in Luke’s narrative about the Road to Emmaus is the way the disciples describe how they felt in the presence of the risen Lord. Luke 24:32 says. “They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?'”
The entire walk to Emmaus became a prayer in the same way that our commonplace, trivial tasks can become prayers. My patron saint, Therese of Lisieux, defined prayer as “an outburst from the heart; it is a simple glance darted upwards to Heaven; it is a cry of gratitude and of love in the midst of trial as in the midst of joy.” That’s how we pray when we live the resurrection.
9. Recognize God in All Things
If Lent is about becoming quiet in order to hear God, Easter is about singing “Alleluia” with Him. And if the 40 days beginning with Ash Wednesday are about detaching ourselves from certain people, places, and things, in order to know ourselves more truly and love ourselves more fully, then Easter is about celebrating all the people, places, and things in our lives that promote goodness, beauty, and love.
“We can find God in everything,” wrote Pope John Paul II, “we can commune with Him in and through all things.” He is alive, and he is everywhere.