Mission Blog: Easter Orchid Series
“They were still incredulous…and…he asked them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’” Luke 24:41
Naples, Day Five of the Easter Appearances. Last night on our evening walk and Gospel reflection, I found myself struggling again with this problem the apostles seem to be having recognizing the risen Lord. Peter saw the empty tomb and came away breathless but confused. Mary of Magdala initially conflated him with the gardener. Cleopas and his friend assumed he was just another traveler on the road. And now, the apostles in the upper room, despite having already been told “He is risen” by several witnesses, still find themselves “incredulous.” What’s wrong with these people?
Then, going deeper, I realized there’s a better question.
“What’s wrong with me?”
Because I don’t get it either. In fact, I’m not sure than any of us can fully “get it.”
The Risen Lord is a mystery. He defies all known human experience. He’s not a simple spirit, or a ghost. He’s a supernatural being that exists, before time and after time, in a super-physical form in an eternal place we can only imagine as “heaven.”
But there is a way to know Him better, to recognize Him more fully. It’s the same way the early Apostles literally did—they experienced Him. John experienced Him when “He saw and believed” at the empty tomb. Mary of Magdala experienced Him when He tenderly, in His unique way, pronounced her name, “Mary”. Cleopas and the unnamed other disciple (me? you?) experienced Him “in the breaking of the bread.” And the apostles in Luke 24 experienced Him when He shared the intimacy of a simple meal of baked fish with them.
All the Apostles saw the risen Lord.
All the Apostles believed in his Resurrection when He shared himself with them. When He allowed them to experience Him.
How can I grow the seed of Faith the Lord has given me? Luke is screaming it at me here. Put yourself in a position to experience Him. And how can I help others experience Him? How can I be a more effective missionary?
Surely, simply “witnessing Christ to others” through our actions is one way, over time, to help a lost soul experience the risen Jesus. But that approach takes time, and can sometimes be ambiguous. To the unbeliever, they might walk away from the encounter feeling good about experiencing Christ through me, but never fully realizing that that is what just happened. They might conclude instead, “Gee, that Steve is a really nice guy.”
A more tangible, direct approach is the sacraments. And that’s why, I think, He led us SoHo missionaries many years ago, stumbling and bumbling as we did, to this conclusion: the sacraments need to be the cornerstone of effective street evangelization. Because for a soul who’s been wandering the dessert of the secular world for a long time without God, who is insisting on reasoning her way to God, or away from Him, the only sure way to bring her back is to, suddenly, unexpectedly, like a bolt of lightning, let her experience the Lord directly, in the sacraments of reconciliation and communion.
I know that if I asked any of you out there what has been the biggest hole in your life in the Corona lockdown, 90% of you will give the same answer I would: the lost sacraments. We need them to sustain our relationship with the Lord, to experience Him in a very intimate way. I also know it’s why so many of us are leaning so hard into the live daily Masses being streamed by our Legionary priests in Rye on the Legionaries of Christ Facebook page, the EWTN daily Mass on its national network, or some other source. Many of us are experiencing Him in some way, I’m sure, through these mediums.
And when this lockdown is over, I can assure you I’m going to run, not walk, run, to that first Mass at St. William and the Reconciliation opportunity that will, I’m sure, follow.
And while we’re at it, we need to begin preparing a celebratory street mission in SoHo. We are going to do a banner business.
April 16, 2020