By Suzanne Cooke, RSCJ, Provincial of the United States – Canada Province
We have arrived at Easter!
In the coming weeks, we will hear story after story of Christ’s friends and disciples encountering Him as the Risen One. Can you imagine what it was like to be one of them?
Each story captures a sense of profound loss, grief and confusion that Christ’s followers experienced in the face of the crucifixion. They seem consumed by grief and loss; anxiety and fear dominate their thinking and feeling. It is in this state of being that each encounters the Risen Christ.
What about us, today? We witness daily contemporary calvaries: images of war and terrorism, of children, women and men being cheated and violated, their dignity discarded, and of the fragility of our common home — the Earth. How do we see beyond these crucifixions to the hope of Easter?
Consider some of the Easter moments — Mary in the Garden, the disciples on the road to Emmaus or Thomas meeting Christ in the upper room. In each, Jesus directs his whole attention to the person. The encounter with Jesus becomes an intimate dialogue. It is within this dynamic of encounter and relationship that Christ helps each person navigate this extraordinary moment of profound recognition. The surge of acknowledgment and comprehension springs into the urgent act of proclaiming the good news - Christ is risen! From the tragedy of the Crucifixion is born the hope of Easter.
What impact does Easter have on us in this moment? How are we encountering Christ, and in what way are we proclaiming this central mystery of our faith – Christ has died and Christ is risen? In our discernment of these questions, we might find encouragement in Pope Francis’ third Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, or “Rejoice and Be Glad.” Subtitled On the Call to Holiness in the Contemporary World, it is an invitation to see the entirety of our lives as a mission, accomplished by listening to God in prayer and asking the Holy Spirit for guidance in each moment and decision.
“A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as a path of holiness.” Francis explains “to walk the path of holiness requires prayer and contemplation alongside action; the two cannot be separated. … We are called to be contemplatives even in the midst of action, and to grow in holiness by responsibly and generously carrying out our proper mission.”
I have come to believe that the absolute key to our capacity to live the truth of Easter lies in our receptivity to the Holy Spirit. I sense that Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat would urge us to remember that if we can breathe in the Spirit of God and surrender to God’s love, we can go forth from our encounter with Christ into the world and bring a sense of hope through our acts of compassion and justice.