07 April 2015, Tuesday within the Octave of Easter

SCRIPTURE READINGS:  ACTS 2:36-41; JN 20:11-18

Many people are seeking to encounter the Risen Lord but never encountered Him.  What could be the reasons for failing to encounter the Lord?  The truth is that we all want to encounter Him on our own terms rather than in the way the Lord wants us to encounter Him.  We are basically self-willed and self-centered.  That is what many of us do in relationships. We profess that we love them when in truth we love ourselves more.  We want to love them but only on our own terms rather on the terms of our beloved.  So what is frustrating is that many of us are imposing our friendship on others and making demands on our relationships or loving them the way we like to love, so much so that those whom we “supposedly” love feel pressurized, stifled or even made use of, since they are being loved, not for their sake but for our sake.   If we truly love someone, then it is important that we love the person in the way that the person wants to be loved, for only then can he or she feel our love, since we are putting their interests before ours.  This is the true meaning of love.  In the same way too, in our encounter with the Risen Christ, we must be ready to meet Him on His terms and not ours.  What then are His terms?  Repent and receive the forgiveness of sins!  This was what Peter said when the Jews asked Him, “What must we do?”  He replied, “You must repent and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  Before we can see the Risen Lord, we must seek repentance of heart.  So long as we remain in our sins and refuse to acknowledge and confess them with a contrite heart, we will not be able to see Jesus. The crowd, we are told at Pentecost, “were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, ‘What must we do, brothers?’”  Are we cut to the quick upon hearing a homily or reading the Word that convicts us of our sins?  If not, there will be no change in our lives.  The truth is that for many of us, even if we know our sins, we are not cut to the heart and therefore we have neither real contrition nor repentance of our sins.

What could be some of these sins?  Firstly, we could be wallowing in self-pity like Mary Magdalene.  She was crying and weeping apparently for Jesus, but in reality, it was for herself.  In her sadness and grief, she could not recognize the Lord.  We too could be allowing our self-preoccupation to hinder us from recognizing the Lord who comes to us in so many ways each day, through nature, events and persons.  More often than not, we allow our hurts, un-forgiveness, pride, envy and our loneliness to lead us into self-pity.  Today, the Lord is asking us to reach out instead, to look out and to look up if we want to find Him.  Indeed, we are told Mary did that.  Initially, she was looking down and then it was the second time when she looked up that she could recognize Jesus when He called her by name.  Yes, we must stop thinking about ourselves and start loving God and others, for it is in reaching out to them that we allow God to find us through them.

Secondly, if we cannot encounter the Risen Lord, it is because we are clinging to our own vision and idea of how the Lord should be meeting us.  We heard how others have experienced the Lord and we think that we, too, will experience Him in the same manner. This is tantamount to clinging to the earthly Jesus that Mary Magdalene knew and loved.  But Jesus comes on His own terms, in a new way and in a way beyond our imagination.  That is why Jesus wanted her to move to another level of faith and relationship with Him, in spirit.  He told Mary, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”  Similarly, Peter told the people,The whole House of Israel can be certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ. … The promise that was made is for you and your children and for all those who are far away, for all those whom the Lord our God will call to himself.”  The resurrection of Jesus too was an amazing event, for how could a carpenter and a condemned criminal of Nazareth be raised from the dead!  So are we ready to be open to the impossible, or do we restrict the power and the wisdom of God from act in the way He has chosen for us?

Thirdly, it could be because we have no real love for Jesus.  Mary truly loves the Lord.  Her love for the Lord was not an intellectual love.  She loved Him deeply from her heart.  This love is shown in her desire to see Him.  This love is manifested in her devotion to Jesus, going to the tomb to anoint His body, crying when she discovered His body was missing.   How much do we long for Jesus?  I think we long to see our loved ones much more than we long to see Jesus or be with Him.  We pay lip service of love to Jesus but we hardly spend time with Him and we hardly miss His presence in our daily life. We come to Him only when we need Him, not because we love Him but because we want Him to do something for us.  If we truly want to seek Him, we must long for His presence and desire Him.  When we love Him sufficiently, we will be able to recognize His presence when He comes.  Indeed, for those whom we love, we can instinctively recognize their presence. 

But it is not sufficient to give up sins; we must receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The truth is that we cannot find Him unless He first finds us.  We must initially desire Him by our repentance.  Once we give up our sins, He will see our sincerity and desire and seek us out, just as He sought Mary in the garden.  Mary was able to recognize Him only because the Lord took the initiative of calling her.  We too can find Him, but only when we see Him with our whole heart.

To encounter the Lord, we must be called by name.  Indeed, in all the conversion experience stories in the bible, one common thread is that all of them were called by name.  Abraham, Jacob, Moses, the prophets and of course the apostles, were called by the Lord by name.  To be called by name implies a certain intimacy.  All of us get excited or pay attention when someone addresses us by name.  Without a name, we are nobody.  When someone does not know us by name, we are impersonal to him/her.  That is why a personal relationship begins with calling the other person by name.   To call a person by name in the bible means that we know the person and the person knows us.  To encounter the Risen Lord, have you heard Him calling you by name, as He called Magdalene who immediately could then recognize her master?

But how can we hear the Lord calling us by name unless we are available to Him?  We must listen to Him calling us.  And how can this happen unless we listen to Him?  He comes to us through the Word of God, through the teachers of the Church, through our superiors and through our brothers and sisters.  The question is, do we listen to Him and allow Him to speak to us?  Unless we are ready to be like Mary Magdalene who pondered and prayed at the tomb of Jesus, we can never listen to His voice calling us by name.  How could any good Catholic live his  Christian life without withdrawing from the world for a few days in a retreat to spend time listening to the voice of the Lord speaking to him and affirming him of His personal love for him?

To encounter the Lord deeply, there is one more thing we must do.  We must not possess Him selfishly for ourselves.  We are called to share what we have received, namely, the joy of being with Him.   Obedience in faith is what is required of us if we want our relationship with Jesus to grow and deepen.   Again, that was what Mary did.  She was instructed to go and tell the brothers about what she saw.  Even though she was ridiculed, yet by sharing the marvelous event of the resurrection, her faith grew because the disciples’ faith eventually grew as well.  This is true also in friendships.  Only when we are ready to share our friends with others, can we find real happiness.  So let us continue during this Easter Octave to remain with Jesus the Risen Lord in prayer so that having encountered Him and heard Him calling us by name, we too can also proclaim to others convincingly and joyfully that we have seen the Lord.