‘He is not dead but alive’: Jesus is with every Christian, in every circumstance
April 16, 2020
Jesus’ Resurrection is more than a promise of life after death for his followers.
The Resurrection makes the Lord alive now in every baptized person, with them in all circumstances as their hope and courage, even during the uncertainties and perils of the coronavirus pandemic.
That’s according to Father Richard Gabuzda, executive director of the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, and Father Andy Alexander of the Society of Jesus, director of the Collaborative Ministry Office and online ministries at Creighton University in Omaha, in phone interviews with the Catholic Voice.
“He is not dead but alive,” Father Alexander said. “That makes all the difference in this world, in how much hope and courage we have before any struggle, any possible fear of death.”
“The tragedy unfolding around us is genuinely discouraging,” Father Alexander said. “But we can let our faith prevent us from losing hope. The Lord wants to turn our discouragement into courage.”
“We’re not just hoping for a future resurrection,” he said. “Because I believe in the Resurrection, I can hope now because the reign of God is among us.”
Father Alexander said he is seeing signs of God’s reign as people help each other, as they stay connected and “make tremendous sacrifices.”
“The great irony is that this is making us a community in a way we wouldn’t be without it,” he said of the coronavirus outbreak and the separation among people it has caused. “We are deprived of the Eucharist, but we’re becoming a Eucharistic people, broken and given for each other.”
ALWAYS WITH US
Catholics “deeply miss being in church, especially now,” Father Gabuzda said. “But we must trust in our baptism, that Christ lives in us, that we are born again. He lives among us and in us.”
Jesus promised: “Behold, I am with you all days until the end of time,” Father Gabuzda said. “That promise is real,” he said. “God’s business and desire is to deliver us from death, that we have life and life to the full.”
That truth can console people, especially as images on the news and online “can reach a saturation point,” he said.
People have been desiring to be closer to God, he said, and that “desire itself, that wanting to be closer, is the Lord at work in their hearts.
“St. Augustine once said that ‘Your desire is itself your prayer.’ The desire would not be in people’s hearts if the Lord didn’t put it there, if the Lord were not in the desire itself.”
The unusual circumstances of this year’s Easter are a reminder of the hardships the early church faced, the two priests said. Scripture shows how Christ’s followers were forced into hiding, dispersed by persecution and thrown out of synagogues, Father Alexander said. “But they caught fire.”
People might not understand how the Lord is working now, just as they did not understand when he slept on a boat while a storm raged around them, when he was absent when Lazarus died, and when he had to explain Scripture to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Father Alexander said. But Jesus showed them that he has power over the wind and sea and sin and death.
TIME FOR BOLDNESS
“Easter is a time to be confident because of the gift of life,” Father Alexander said. “Jesus gives us the grace to live with boldness and hope.”
“When we have faith, we have courage,” he said. “When we have faith, we can do unexpected things. When we have faith in the Resurrection, we can hear our mission.”
The Easter season is 50 days long, from Easter Sunday to Pentecost, “to help us become a church and renew the face of the earth, gathered in Spirit and mission,” Father Alexander said.
Jesus suffered humanly, and the Gospel images of his passion are “very vivid,” Father Gabuzda said. They show us that “God must have some sense of what’s going on today, and God is with us, even in suffering.”
It’s difficult to be compassionate when you’re afraid, Father Alexander said. But the knowledge that “nothing can separate us from the love of God” should give Christians courage and embolden them.
RETURNING TO ‘GALILEE’
Father Gabuzda said people might look to Pope Francis’ Easter advice in 2014, when he told today’s faithful to return to “Galilee.” That was Jesus’ instructions for his apostles, relayed by the women who went to his tomb and found it empty. “Let them go to Galilee; there they will see me,” Jesus said.
According to the pope, “Galilee is the place where they were first called, where everything began! To return there, to the place where they were originally called.”
Returning to Galilee “means to reread everything on the basis of the cross and its victory without fear,” he said.
For Christians today, “there is a ‘Galilee’ at the origin of our journey with Jesus,” Pope Francis said in the 2014 homily.
The return to Galilee “means above all to return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey.”
“Returning to Galilee means treasuring in my heart the living memory of that call, when Jesus passed my way, gazed at me with mercy and asked me to follow him,” the Holy Father said.
“It means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me.”
“From that flame I can light a fire for today and every day, and bring heat and light to my brothers and sisters,” the pope said. “That flame ignites a humble joy, a joy which sorrow and distress cannot dismay, a good, gentle joy.”