“God must be allowed to surprise us” (Patrick Kavanagh)
By Jerry Creedon
System Faith Animator
Appearances, we have discovered, can be deceptive. Few more so than the post-Easter appearances of the Risen Christ. In those appearances, as the American novelist, Ron Hansen, has observed, Christ characteristically appears as a stranger
, even to his closest friends. Mary Magdalene mistakes him for a gardener working near the empty tomb; the disciples on the road to Emmaus meet him as a vagabond; the apostles see him as a solitary fisherman on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias. Surely a manifestation of what George Herbert called “heaven in ordinarie,” and St. Teresa of Avila “God strolling amid pots and pans.”
On Easter morning, to quote William Butler Yeats, “All was changed, changed utterly.” The world had died in the night, and the Easter sun danced over the horizon of a new creation. And yet, the Risen Jesus strolls into this new creation, precisely because it is a new creation, as a gardener, a vagabond, a lone fisherman. By doing so he is clearly telling us something very important. “Christ seemed to be teaching his friends that he will be with them always, as he promised, but in the world at large and in the faces of strangers
” (Ron Hansen, Faith and Fiction. America, 1998, April 4, p.14). Hadn’t Jesus himself told us this before ever he rose from the dead? “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” The righteous, perplexed, will ask: “When was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you?” To which Jesus will reply: “Inasmuch as (I love that King James expression!) you did it to one of the least of these members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25: 31-40).Resurrection is now.
All that is dead within me can now be quickened by its life-giving power: anxiety, fear, terror, hate, grief, loneliness, despair, ambivalence and, worst of all, apathy. “The wonderful work of God” which Acts of the Apostles calls the Resurrection, is still going on, giving life to the dead. Resurrection is now.
All that is dead within us as community can now be raised to new life, like the dry bones in Ezekiel. All that can kill community is robbed of its power: distrust, misunderstanding, intolerance, humourlessness, joylessness, lovelessness…We will be raised from the dead as long as we can be surprised.
The power of the Resurrection is the rule of the unexpected. If we and our world are not to die of staleness, we must be renewed by wonder. Before Resurrection can have any power over us or our times, we must temper calculation with enchantment and not banish leprechauns with computers.
Let us pray: O God of surprises, bring resurrection to our lives. Roll the stones away from all that entombs us, to set us free to liberate those around us. Fill our hearts with wonder, warm them with your love. Amen.