Two weeks ago, Easter Sunday, I mentioned in my homily one of the most common of human dilemmas—bridging the sublime and the noble, on the one hand, and the day-to-day realities, on the other. There were people nodding as I said this, and so many more laughed when I gave this example.
One morning, I had such a beautiful, grace-filled prayer and was feeling very positive and upbeat as I started work. I left home, feeling ready to conquer the world in the service of God! Then, 10 minutes on the road, the driver did something reckless that almost got us into an accident. Worse, it was a bad habit I had been calling his attention to, and this made me all the more livid.
That was an abrupt end to my quest for holiness! So much for the grace-filled prayer and the desire to conquer the world in God’s name! Ah, concupiscence, how do we overcome thee?!
The following Sunday, Feast of the Divine Mercy, one of those who attended my Easter Sunday Mass was in my Mass again. He came up to me after the Mass and told me how he kept on thinking about what I said the Easter Sunday. Then he told me how he could identify with what I said.
He said he would go on annual retreats and how each year he would come out renewed, focused and ready to serve God! Then in no time at all, a week or two, all the graces are dissipated in the day-to-day demands of life and work.
This is the human dilemma—I humbly think and feel—most of us face. How do we bridge the human situation and the divine? How do we bridge the mundane and the sublime? How do we balance heaven and earth in our day-to-day life?
Chris Lowney captures this dilemma succinctly: “Our religious traditions often provide unparalleled wisdom, but no straightforward approach for weaving this wisdom through daily life… how do I connect my deepest beliefs to what I do all week at work and at home?” (from “Heroic Living”)
How do we connect the central grace of our Christian faith to our day-to-day life and work? How does the Paschal mystery, the Cross and the Resurrection, make a difference in how I spend my day, do my regular work, relate with all the people I come across?
This is the Resurrection question? As the two disciples on the road to Emmaus asked the unrecognized Risen Lord, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” To this question the Risen Lord responds, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow you are to believe…” Then he continues by recalling—leading them to remember—“all that the prophets spoke.”
This Sunday’s readings try to bring us to this perspective, to remember all: where we started; what inspired us to pursue our initial dreams and mission; what the original purpose, mission, meaning and inspiration are all about. This Sunday’s readings remind us that we need to let our hearts burn; always remember, let our hearts burn and live a noble, heroic life.
Chris Lowney prescribes four general steps: 1) create a new strategy for your whole life and for a new time, a complex and fast-changing world; 2) discover your mighty purpose; 3) choose wisely; and 4) make every day matter.
The Risen Lord greets his friends in this Sunday’s Gospel: “Peace be with you.” He reminds us to get hold of ourselves; reintegrate and be whole; regain perspective. It invites us back to our equanimity, that which makes us feel whole and at peace again as a person. This is the new strategy the Risen Lord leads us back to.
The Lord also reminds us to go back to the mighty purpose. Ignatius of Loyola was very emphatic about this. Through all of Ignatius’ seemingly sophisticated spirituality, he was clear about one thing: It boils down to saving souls—ours and others’. This is our mighty purpose at its core. The Risen Lord will agree, “that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name.” Rediscover your mighty purpose.
Season of grace
The first command of the Risen Lord was to tell his friends to go back to Galilee and there they will see him. This is one of the central graces of the Resurrection that makes it a tremendous season of grace and renewal. We go back to Galilee to remember how it all started. Galilee was where it all started: where he called his first disciples; where he first preached the good news.
After all the twists and turns from Galilee to Jerusalem, the Risen Lord says, “Go back to Galilee.” The disciples are now able to see the meaning and wisdom of all that had transpired in their time with Jesus. And this is what they preached, the good news that they finally understood from the perspective of the Resurrection.
Now they were ready to be on their own and “to go out to all the world” to preach the good news. They chose wisely and acted wisely; following the “voice within,” the Spirit of the Risen Lord, which they have so deeply ingrained in their head, heart and soul. Indeed they went out to all the world to spread the good news.
Theirs became a life that was totally given to proclaim that Jesus is Lord, the Lord is Risen! Theirs is a life where everything mattered because everything was done in the service and love of this Risen Lord.
The Resurrection, the Easter Season, reminds us that, yes, it is difficult to bridge the sublime and the noble; that our faith is not to be reassessed and even renewed in retreats and in prayer alone, but it must intertwine with and struggle through the daily grind; that in all things we—at least try—to love and to serve.
The Resurrection stories or narratives were the first to be told. The rest of the Gospel narratives grew out of these core stories. I would like to think that the early church, the first disciples of the Risen Lord made sense of the rest of the story because in God’s time it all fell into place. When the time came—in the fullness of time—the Cross and Resurrection became everything, the definitive synthesis, the alpha and the omega. Nothing else mattered.
If our life can be this integrated, it bridges all gaps. It balances and reconciles all paradoxes and ironies. It balances heaven and earth. It makes us one with the Risen Lord. Nothing else will matter.