- About Grace
Reflecting on The Great Fifty Days
On April 25, 2014
Being found by God…
Common events inflamed with eternal significance…
After the death of Jesus, Mary goes in search of him on Sunday morning. Not finding him in the grave where he is supposed to be, she becomes frantic. She sees a man whom she thinks is the cemetery gardener. Taking her anger and pain out on him, she demands, “Where is he? Where is the dead Savior?”
Not until the risen Christ calls her name does she discover the identity of “the gardener.” In that moment the common and the ordinary become the vessel of the sacred, and Mary receives the frightening, unimaginable truth. Her hope could not remain dead. She has not been abandoned. It was only that she could not see the Christ who was with her. Who would have thought? It was the gardener all along.
* * *
Most of us do not enjoy extraordinary encounters with God – mountain top revelations, foxhole conversions. Most of us are found by God in quieter transforming moments, not unlike Mary’s experience. In such moments, the ordinary events of life suddenly take on new meaning. The Bible and our Tradition tell us that God is speaking to us all the time. Are we listening? Are we paying attention? Those are the questions. Common routines, common events, are inflamed with eternal significance.
After their Lord was crucified, two of Jesus’ followers, Cleopas and another, were silently making their way down the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The risen Christ began to walk with them, but, typically, they did not recognize him. Step by step, they began to speak of their despair, their loss. Eventually the disciples invited this man to join them for dinner. “So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” (The Gospel according to Luke 24: 29-31.)
Common routines, common events, are inflamed with eternal significance. The image of the risen Christ holding the broken bread eternally signifies God holding our broken dreams and broken bodies, our broken homes and broken fellowships, and our sophisticated, broken world — all of it, cradled in his own brokenness. In that communion, the disciples’ eyes are opened, and in that moment the risen Christ vanishes.
As quickly as he comes, he disappears. Just as Christ is not contained in a Bible, just as Christ is not contained by bread and wine, so Christ is not contained by our dreams. He will vanish every time we try to grab him and jam him into our expectations.
But we know that it was the risen Jesus who broke into our brokenness. We don’t know what it means. We don’t know where it will lead, but we know he was here, with us. The present is no longer the same. We are not abandoned. Our hope cannot remain dead. He is here.
James H. Purdy
The Great Fifty Days, 2014