And hardly do we guess aright at things that are upon the earth, and in labour do we find the things that are before us; but the things that are in heaven, who hath searched out? And thy counsel who hath known, except thou give wisdom and send thy Holy Spirit from above.
Today on this Easter Sunday, we find ourselves on the third day, counting Good Friday as the first, in what the Church from the earliest times of her existence has understood to encapsulate the perfect expression and extent of God’s love for us in the Person of Jesus Christ, through whom we journey mystically and contemplatively through spiritual suffering, death, and resurrection, as we begin our pilgrimage to our true native land, the homeland of God the Father’s Kingdom. Then we will enjoy forever, friendship with God in the eternity of His today. But this is only possible if and when we [begin to] be risen with Christ.
But being Risen with Christ never stands on its own. It can come to us only if we have faith in God’s love. God has always loved us. Always He has chosen to serve, sacrifice and give Himself to His people. In order to secure and establish his relationship with mankind, God spoke to His ancient people, the Jews. He chose to give them the Law as a schoolmaster to prepare them for the day when He would write It into their hearts. He chose to punish and correct them when they erred and strayed from the paths of His promises that they might learn to fear the Lord. He chose to make himself absent at times, to generate deeper trust in His power and desire for His will. He chose to speak to them through Prophets, who told of His coming in a way that would startle the mind and convict the heart. And He chose to do all these things, because He loved and desired them and us to be His own forever.
It is, however, only in the humanity of Jesus Christ that we see and experience the full extent of God’s longing and desire to be one with His people. It is only in Christ that we see His triumph over any obstacles which stand to frustrate our reconciliation with our heavenly Father. As our opening quotation suggests, it is hard for men to see and perceive God’s counsel…and the things that are in heaven, unless [God] gives wisdom…and sends His Holy Spirit. (Idem) Men are of the earth and are earthly. It is only through things most familiar and near to them, the tangible things of matter and motion, bodies, sights, sounds, smells, and so on, that men come to know and understand reality, as the great Aristotle taught man long ago. So in order to call man back to Himself, God comes down and into the human condition and predicament to call and summon, teach and preach, and reveal and disclose His unfolding purposes for man’s salvation. God’s Word, His Desire, is made flesh in the life of Jesus Christ.Through His human nature, Jesus Christ will slowly but surely lead man back to the wisdom and love of God. And so it is through human conception, birth, life, death, and Resurrection that God in Jesus Christ works and labors for the redemption and salvation of all men.
St. Paul reminds us that…as in Adam all die, (1 Cor. xv. 22) even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (Ibid) Jesus Christ is the New Adam, the New Man who chooses God, obeys God and comes to reveal and do His will. He is human, but he perfectly obeys His Father. He is man, but He is also God. He is seen and heard, he is touched and handled. He is with us and for us, and through His human nature He bears and carries God’s life into our midst. He comes to show us that, aside from despair, no moment of human life is unredeemable, or need ever threaten to sever us from the knowledge and love of God. Not even death. He chooses to take on death. His work or labor of love includes death. He is crucified. Sinful man rejects His labor of love. He suffers at the hands of those He made. He embodies our rejection of God, our denial of God’s eternal love and passion in the here and now, in His flesh. But even in death, He labors to express God’s love for us. Nothing can stop the living love that He imparts to men in all ages. Neither injustice, crime, vice, nor His own execution can stop the work of His saving love. His work is to invite us into God’s desire and determination for our salvation through His Resurrection. And so, Christ’s flesh was sown in corruption…[but now] is raised in incorruption; sown in dishonor, raised in glory; sown in weakness, raised in power; sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body. (1 Cor. xv. 42-44)
Christ is risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death: by man came also the resurrection of the dead. (1Cor. xv. 20,21) Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once, but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. (Romans vi. 9, 10) We believe that neither sin nor death could keep Christ down or stop His work. As the Fourth Article of Religion tells us: Christ did truly rise again from death and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man’s nature…The Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God as Man, rose from the dead, still intent upon embracing us with His wounded and scarred hands, still determined to walk us into His Father’s presence on feet still marked with the nails of His Cross. With God’s love in His heart, the forgiveness of sins in His hands, He reaches out to all men to lift them up and into His Resurrection and New Life.
But the Risen Christ does not come to call His friends immediately and explicitly. On the first Easter morning there is a slow dawning, a progressive realization of what will come to pass. The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. (St. John x. 1,2) Jesus Christ is calling Mary, but her faith is not yet fully formed or refined. Her mind is set on love. She will blunt the terror and profanity of His death by loving what of Him she still can. So she comes to anoint His dead body. (M.H. Comm, adapt.) But she finds that He is not there. Now what have they done with the sacred flesh of the Lord whom I’ve loved, she must have wondered with ominous fear.Her mind forgets of His promise to rise again, so full is she with confusion and uncertainty. So she does the next best thing. She runs to Peter and John to transmit and impart the truth that she knows. She runs to the one who had denied His Lord three times before the Crucifixion, but has repented. She runs to the other who had stood at her side by the Cross as they watched the horror of Jesus’ death unfold. But she does not despair. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulcher. (Ibid, 3,4) Peter and John run like Mary, but with a faith and wonder that must be tried and tested, as the Master calls them into the truth of His Resurrection. John outruns Peter, for the pull of the Lord had always been stronger in the heart of the disciple whom Jesus loved.
So in faith this morning we run with Saints Peter and John to discover the Empty Tomb. But, with them, let us find the first moments when man’s faith and consciousness begin to be altered by the call of the Resurrected Christ. With them let us wonder if sin and death really are the last and final words defining our woeful condition. Peter and John have not yet seen the Risen Christ. But in faith they seek will seek Him out; in faith they will watch and wait. Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. (St. John xx. 29) And so such is the case with most of us. We have not seen the Risen Christ with our physical eyes, and most of us never will on this side of heaven. But on this Resurrection Morn, I do hope that we shall begin to seek Him out with the eyes of faith, the mind of hope, and the heart of love. I pray that we shall never cease to run after Him with the zeal and passion of Saints Peter and John. But I pray, too, that we might be patient, tarrying…the Lord’s leisure…strong, that he might comfort [our hearts]. (Ps. xxvii. 16)
Christ revealed His Resurrected Body and its meaning to His friends during a forty day period. So we must come to believe and understand our Resurrected Master through a forty day period of illumination and enlightenment. So with Cardinal Newman, Let us not seek then for signs and wonders, or ask for sensible inward tokens of God’s favour; let us not indulge enthusiasm, or become the slaves of superstition, [but become] the children of God by faith. Faith only can introduce us to the unseen Presence of God; let us venture to believe… Let us be wise in time; let us seek Him “while it is called today;”…Let us, as far as is permitted us, approach Him, who walked upon the sea, and rebuked the wind, and multiplied the loaves, and turned the water into wine, and made the clay give sight, and entered through the closed doors, and came and vanished at His will in His Resurrection. Let us see Him by faith…(J.H.N….Addressed to Faith)
And with W.H. Auden, let us seek to find faith’s deepest desire.
He is the Way
Follow Him through the land of unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.
He is the truth
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.
He is the Life
Love Him in the world of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.
(For the Time Being: W.H.Auden)