I returned from Manila to celebrate Easter and the wedding of Michelle, my cousin in Texas. I have “lain low” mainly because I feel called to spend time reflecting on the many graces of the past seven months. It is such a blessing to see my family and surprise a few friends. What a delight it is to see reactions of both joy and shock in the people whom I surprised. One person blinked several times to make sure that she wasn't seeing a mirage. Another placed a hand over her heart for a long minute. Perhaps she was checking to see if it skipped a beat or calming its racing rhythm.
It makes me wonder if the disciples who encountered the Risen Jesus experienced something similar: surprised by joy … even shocked by joy.
Paradoxically, I am the one being surprised, even though I am the one surprising others. While I anticipated some people’s reactions, I am surprised at the depth of their responses when they see me. I am shocked at the spontaneous kindness of one couple; I am stunned by how sensitive I am to sadness and suffering. Things seem to hit me more deeply these two weeks back in the US.
The poem below is a bit long. Yet, it may be worth the time set aside for prayer and reflection. It describes three encounters of people with the Risen Jesus, who slowly reveals himself to them in deeper ways. They are recounted in the Gospels of this week: Jn 20:11-18; Jn 21:1-14; Lk 24:13-35.
The Easter Season has 50 days (until Pentecost). It is longer than Lent, to allow ample time and space for us to be surprised or shocked by joy. Join me in letting the Risen One - the God of Surprises, the Arsonist of the Heart - touch us anew.
Arsonist of the Heart
(by John Shea from The Challenge of Jesus)
Like her friend
she would curse the barren tree
and the glory in the lilies of the field.
She lived in noons and midnites,
in those mounting moments of high dance
when blood is wisdom and flesh love.
before the violated cave
on the third day of her tears
she is a black pool of grief
spent upon the earth.
They have taken her dead Jesus,
unoiled and unkissed,
to where desert flies and worms
more quickly work.
She suffers wounds that will not heal
and enters into the pain of God
where lives the gardener
who once exalted on her perfume,
knew the extravagance of her hair,
and now asks her whom she seeks.
In Peter's dreams
the cock still crowed.
He returned to Galilee
to throw nets into the sea
and watch them sink
like memories into darkness.
He did not curse the sun
that rolled down his back
or the wind that drove
the fish beyond his nets.
He only waited for the morning
when the shore mist would lift
and from his boat he would see him.
Then after naked and impetuous swim
with the sea running from his eyes
he would find a cook
with holes in his hands
and stooped over dawn coals
who would offer him the Kingdom of God
On the road that escapes Jerusalem
and winds along the ridge to Emmaus
two disillusioned youths
dragged home their crucified dream.
They had smelled messiah in the air
and rose to that scarred and ancient hope
to mourn what might have been.
And now a sudden stranger falls upon their loss
with excited words about mustard seeds
and surprises hidden at the heart of death
and that evil must be kissed upon the lips
and that every scream is redeemed for its echoes
in the ear of God and do you not understand
what died upon the cross was fear.
They protested their right to despair but he said,
"My Father's laughter fills the silence of the tomb."
Because they did not understand they offered him food.
And in the breaking of the bread
they knew the impostor for who he was --
the arsonist of the heart.
After the end
comes the conspiracy
of gardeners, cooks, and strangers.