Christ Among Us: Jesus' bodily resurrection confirms God's glory in our humanity
As we approach Easter during this Holy Tuesday, we look to a Formation article from April 2016 exploring how the resurrection sets the tone for the Easter season in our parish, family, and personal life. While the realization of the resurrection may burst the imagery of colorful eggs and Easter bunnies, it enhances the meaning of the celebration.
By ERIN RYAN
Easter Sunday was March 27. Pentecost is May 15. All of April is thus within the Easter season, and the liturgical calendar for this month is entirely white — except for two red martyrs’ days, the 11th and the 25th.
When I saw the image of that snowy April calendar, with its small spots of red, it reminded me of an illustration for a story called “The Ermine” in one my childhood books, Fables of Leonardo Da Vinci*. The picture showed an ermine flying backward over the snow at the impact of an arrow in its heart, a tiny crimson point of blood on its chest marring its perfect white fur. (Drawings in that book are not for the squeamish.)
In the tale itself, a fox offers left-overs from his meal to the “elegant ermine” of the title, who refuses the food. The fox laughs:
“You ermines are the most prudish animals in the world. You eat only once a day, and you would go without rather than dirty your fur.”
At that moment some hunters came up. The fox, quick as lightning, hid underground, and the ermine, no less swift than the fox, ran for his den.
But the sun had melted the snow, and his den had become a quagmire. The snow-white ermine was afraid of slipping into the mud, and stopped, hesitant. And the hunters caught him.
I hadn’t read that story in a long time, and its juxtaposition with the Easter calendar made me think. Here we are in a season of joy, a season of resurrection. Jesus has conquered death. He has passed beyond pain, beyond the blood and sweat that fouled his body on the cross. He never has to worry, ever again, about slipping into the mud or “dirtying his fur.”
Yet, what does this new-risen Man do?
Does he stay and bask in the perfect light of heaven? No. He comes back to his disciples. Does he come back to the disciples as some kind of ghost? Does he beam some spiritual knowledge into their minds? No, in our Gospel readings for April, Jesus speaks. He breathes. He is solid and real and constantly appealing to the physical senses of his disciples.
On April 3, Jesus invites the frightened people to look and listen and feel his wounds, which he has retained even in his risen state.
He showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them. …
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side." (John 20:20-22; 27, my italics)
On April 10, we find that the disciples have gone back to work. They need to eat, after all, somehow.
When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. … Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.” And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they realized it was the Lord. (John 21:9, 12)
This Lord has no problem mess-ing up his clean hands; he touches their food:
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish. (John 21:13)
Before he died, Jesus told his dis-ciples what they must do after he left them. “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. … I give you a new commandment: love one another” (Gospel for April 24, John 13:33-34).
Love sounds shining and ideal, and it is a beautiful thing, but it isn’t all floaty hearts and happy platitudes.
Love means risk. And risk means pain, sometimes.
Last December at my church back in Charlotte, we were all gathered for Christmas Eve Mass. We came from warm, decorated houses and family gatherings. The crèche was up, white banners draped in the background. The presider was a retired bishop who had once worked with Mother Teresa. His homily was direct, heartbreaking, and true. He punctured people’s Merry Christmas bubble by talking about how the Holy Family lived in bleak, uncertain times and so do we. He talked about his days in Calcutta seeing abandoned babies left by the side of the road.
But then he said: “Yet our hearts are filled with joy. Because God has put heaven inside of us. ”We have compassion, we love each other, we love the world, and we have hope because we believe in the resurrection of the body. Our very bodies, our senses, are the means to know and show God.
The apostles risked everything (our April first readings from Acts); and Mary risked everything (Annunciation, April 4); and our April martyrs, Stanislaus (April 11) and Mark (April 25), risked everything — and they did it for the Word that makes everything worthwhile.
As Christmas brings God into our suffering world, so Easter meets evil head-on and shows us the path through it to redemption.
Erin Ryan is associate editor of Celebration. She lives in Chapel Hill, N.C. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org