"The Paschal Mystery and Beyond" is my choice for the heading of this blog. Usually I write and then reflect on what the heading should be. Over these many years those two words, "the beyond," have led to a lot of reflective thought. It started way back when I challenged those preparing for the seven ritual sacraments to be prepared to live outwardly, the new and different life that had taken root within. If there is no thought given to the "beyond "why receive the Sacrament? It is in the living of the "beyond," that the newness is revealed. What has brought about this "newness of life"? Our encounter with the living Person of Our Lord, and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Our faith teaches us that in each and every encounter with The Risen Christ ,we are being transformed into being His living presence. This miracle of grace does not happen with just one encounter. It has to be repeated again and again. When you are preparing Easter eggs, you do not just dip the egg once into the dye, right? You dip, and dip, and dip, and then dip some more. We are not transformed, or transfigured by just one encounter with The Risen Lord. The process takes a whole lifetime as we respond to the challenge that comes with the reception of each ritual sacraments. We slowly grow into an ever deepening understanding of what it means to receive the seven sacraments. And not only to receive the sacrament, but to come to live more fully, the life we are now called to live. WE are to be "the contemporary Christ," How often is there time spent reflecting on Who it is we have encountered, and Who it is we are now called to be, as a result of this encounter. If there is no intention of being transformed into the living Presence of The Risen Christ, we will never fulfill the great dream, the aisling, our God has for us, and has had from all of eternity. We are no surprise to God.
In The Sacrament of Baptism we begin our initiation into the Paschal Mystery of Jesus, The Christ. It is an initiation into a mystery, that we will live daily, and never quite understand. Our life's experience will lead us into an ever new understanding of our participation in The Paschal Mystery. We will, again and again be drawn into the understanding that our suffering is the continuation of Christ's suffering. Christ's suffering lead to death, Resurrection, and new life, so too, for us, new life will appear in the same place where death was experienced. This endless cycle of death and rebirth into new life, is the destiny, the vocation, for those who are chosen. The mysterious action of saving grace will keep us in wonderment our whole life long. Wonder leads to prayer. I cannot help but think about all that Henri Nouwen had to go through to be able to write the following? What were the "beyonds" that had to be journeyed to and through, so that he was able to gift us with (this is Jesus Christ speaking to you and I): "I am your God, I have molded you with my hands, and I love what I have made. I love you with a love that knows no limits, because I love you as I love myself. Do not run away from me. Come back to me--not once, not twice, but always. You are my child. How can you doubt that I will embrace you again? I am your God--the God of mercy and compassion, the God of pardon and love, the God of tenderness and care. Please do not say that I have given up on you. It is not true. I so much want you to be close to me. I know all your thoughts. I hear all your words. I see all your actions. Because you are beautiful, made in my image, an expression of my most intimate love, do not judge yourself. Do not condemn yourself. Do not reject yourself. Let my love reveal to you your own beauty, a beauty that you have lost sight of, but which will become visible to you again in the light of my mercy. Let me wipe your tears, and whisper in your ear, "I love you, I love you."
The only response to those wonder-full words is silence. They are too much for us. They speak the truth, but can we hear, listen, and embrace these radical, life enhancing words? It is difficult, is it not, they are just too good to believe? We are told if something is too good, we are not to be taken in, we are to run away from it. God knows that and asks us "not to run away" from His/Her infinite, prodigal love. Now do this. Go back and read the words again, but insert your name before "I am." You are now going to pray; John, Pat, Pablo, Lupe, Maria…I am your God..." Read the words slowly and allow them to penetrate into the depths. In the depths where they will encounter The Blessed Trinity Who dwells eternally in those same depths. The result, a party, a celebration that has no end in this life. This celebration will continue into eternity, and through all of eternity. As we celebrate in the here and now, so will our eternity be. Now that is downright scary. So we need to heed the call of our Initiation. We must of necessity, seek out and search out all that is ours because of our Encounter with The Paschal Mystery, and allow ourselves to be drawn beyond ourselves. We spend forty days to prepare for this mystery and then spend three full days in celebration . We are now in the 50 days it will take us to delve into what this mystery means, as we live out our daily lives.
Each, and every action will reveal to you and me, some aspect of the dying, burial, rising, and Ascension, of Our Living Lord. There is no event or action that is neutral. All have sacramental value. This will reveal to us a new way of living. To complete Paschal Mystery, we ask for the Spirit for this new, never before lived life. This takes us to the beyond. This takes us to the land of ever newness. In this land of "ever newness" the truth of Henri's words will become a lived experience. There will always forces in our lives that want to prevent this happening. They are doing the devil's work. Satan, "the prosecuting attorney," will do all in his power to trigger our denial of who we are in God's love. He has his agents. They are the ones who are so ready to judge, to condemn, to punish, when we do not measure up to their stringent rules. They are today's Pharisees. They are encountered both within and outside. Their voices are never still. So we are called to be vigilant, ever vigilant. Just as The Prophet Jesus had trouble with them, so we too, as followers of Him today, will have the same trouble. They were nasty then, and they are nasty now. To make matters worse they give you the idea they are speaking for God. But it is not the compassionate, mercy-full God of Jesus Christ. We have met Him above, and He/She is a God of life, not death. The Pharisee(s) create an array of idols, false gods. They create idols. Idols that are made in their image and likeness. These idols do not give life, they only destroy. The living God of Jesus Christ wants to bestow life on us, and bestow it in abundance. We have that battle of the voices of negativity each and every moment we are given to live. The quality of my life will depend on which voice I am listening to and responding to. We have been given The Paraclete, The Defense Attorney, who never tires of defending us, so we will never have to face any attack on our own, or by ourselves. May each reception of The Ritual Sacraments lead us always beyond our fears, to the discovery of the newness of the life our God has wished for each one. May the reality, the certainty of "the beyond" bring an ever deepening sense of awe and wonder, leading to an ever present excitement for the journey to our God, and with our God.