Begin Anew

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised.” ~ Matthew 28:5-6.

I woke up in the early morning darkness which is not a bad thing. I grumble, roll out of bed, and fumble my way to my mom’s old, tattered recliner which is a sacred chair now for me. The predawn silence and emptiness inundate our back room as I light a small candle and hold it in front of my closed eyes and I say, “Jesus says, ‘I am the light of the world.’” The soft light of the candle flickers across my eyelids. The blend of dancing light and darkness reflects my heart, and I slowly became aware of my breath.

Then I say aloud to no one in particular, “And Jesus says, we are the light of the world as well. We carry God’s light, the Divine light of resurrection hope and love within us.” I breathe light and darkness in and out. I cannot really separate the two because they come together.

In my morning quiet place, the sun rises from the east. The trees begin to take form and resurrection begins anew as the skeptical clouds fade from the margins of my mind. A lone bird alights on a branch.

In our lives, have we found sadness and joy, tears and laughter, brokenness and wholeness, and death and resurrection to be close siblings? Does the darkness of Good Friday lead to Easter Joy? Can we live with Resurrection Hope despite the dark clouds around us and within us?

Brain McLaren describes a world saturated by the Risen Christ. “It feels like an uprising. An uprising of hope, not hate. An uprising armed with love, not weapons. An uprising that shouts a joyful promise of life and peace, not angry threats of hostility and death. Resurrection is an uprising of outstretched hands, not clenched fists. It is the someday we have always dreamed of, emerging in the present, rising up among us and within us.”

Resurrection manifests that “life is on our side” as Thomas Merton wrote. Paul penned, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (see Romans 8:31). It is so easy to fall into darkness and live there. Life is not fair. It is easy to stay angry, to be cynical and to hold grudges. Yet resurrection lifts us into the light. We let go and let the Spirit of the Risen Christ grow within us like the newness of spring.

I open my eyes in the early morning to see. The rising sun cloaks half of our crab apple tree in light while the other half of the tree rests in the receding darkness. A small brown bird sits in the light and sings songs of spring—twirls, bells, and long soft notes—to my delight. My eyes are on the sparrow, and she must be watching me.

I marvel at how easily the little bird hops from the sunlight on the outer edges of the branch to the shadows near the trunk. She moves effortlessly between the light and the darkness, and I find myself admiring her. Can we embrace the truths found in darkness and light? Can hold with Grace the wisdom of Good Friday and Easter?

Merton writes of resurrection, “There need not be any long twilight separating darkness from dawn. The sun can suddenly arise, strangely and unexpectedly out of the most unpromising sky. The Holy Spirit calls us to experience the Resurrection in our own lives by entering this movement—the Spirit’s power of love and renewal.”

We know the sting of death, but do we know the joy of resurrection? We know darkness but do we know light? We know despair but do we know hope? We “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” but do we know the beauty of walking in sunshine? We know the power of hate to build walls, but do we trust the power of God’s Grace to build bridges between nations and people?

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary go to the tomb as the day is dawning. They expect the pain of Jesus’ death to greet them. An angel says to them, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who is crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised,” (Matthew 28:5-6).

Fiona Gardner, a Merton scholar says we run the risk of turning the resurrection into a historic event or a Biblical story without implications for how we live as the people of God. “Resurrection is about liberation, power, and hope. Merton adds that it is about a capacity and resilience in life to bounce back, to transform ourselves creatively even though we might feel defeated, and despite the battle between life and death that goes on within us.”

Resurrection sings with the sparrows, “Always we begin anew,” as Saint Benedict said.

Today, we ask with Mary on that first Easter morning, “Where is the risen Christ? Where is this love that moves mountains and calms the seas? Can we experience new life?”

Sister Ilia Delio, a Franciscan theologian writes, “Where is this Risen Christ? Everywhere and all around us—in you, your neighbor, the dogwood tree outside, the budding grape vine, the ants popping up through the cracks. The whole world is filled with God, who is shining through even the darkest places of our lives. To go to church is to awaken to this divine presence in our midst and respond in love with a yes.”

May we see and experience the beauty, the love, and the renewing spirit of the Risen Christ. May we begin again and live in a Hope that does not disappoint us.

Blessings and peace,

Craig