At the core of Franciscan spirituality is this striving to enter into the divine heart to feel the pathos of suffering love that God feels for the world. Francis’s striving to identify with the crucified Christ was not meant to be a spiritual absorption into suffering for its own sake and should not be construed as a masochistic sanctification of pain. Rather, Francis sought to know God by abiding with God in the passion. Francis embodied and illuminated the words of St. Paul, who wrote: “In my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col 1:24). Francis believed that if we claim to be the body of Christ, we are called to participate in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We are called to die and be raised again in new life, not just at the end of our life but in each moment of our discipleship journey. Francis accompanies us in following Jesus in the way of the cross, the way of active love on behalf of the crucified of the world.
In the end we are faced with the awesome paradox of Christian faith that defies human definitions of power. In Jesus’s apparent absolute powerlessness on the cross, indeed the complete self-abnegation of Jesus on the cross, God has radically overturned all human notions of power. Out of weakness comes strength; out of powerlessness comes power; out of death comes resurrection, life. This is part of the radical witness that Jesus, Paul, and Francis place before us: God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness stronger than human strength.
Jesus takes the hatred of all those around him and responds with love and sacrifice. In doing so, he transforms the ugliness of the crucifixion into a beautiful act of love. The crucifixion and resurrection, which began as an act of betrayal, becomes the most powerful symbol of hope in our faith. Like Jesus, we are challenged to respond to bitterness with compassion. Jesus tells his followers quite plainly that the world will hate them. The life we are called to live is countercultural, and it is likely that we will experience some resistance. We are called to respond to this hate with love.
Easter is a time to see and a time to join the general dance of creation. To remember not only that which has been fulfilled in Christ’s death and resurrection, but to recall also what St. Francis said in recalling that in the Incarnation we have the promise that salvation is at hand. For, as Merton writes, “The Lord made the world and made humanity in order the He Himself might descend into the world, that He Himself might become human. When He regarded the world He was about to make He say His wisdom, as a man-child, ‘playing in the world, playing before Him at all times.’ And He reflected, ‘My delights are to be with the children of humanity.’”
God has entered our world as one of us, drawn close to us out of a self-emptying desire and love, assumed all of our reality, and consecrates it completely in the Resurrection, where now creation and divinity exist eternally as one. Merton continues: “For in becoming human, God became not only Jesus Christ but also potentially every man and woman that ever existed. In Christ, God became not only ‘this’ man, but also, in a broader and more mystical sense, yet no less truly, ‘every man.’”
~ Daniel P. Horan, OFM, Easter is about the General Dance | Dating God.
Of course, unless we understand our own sinfulness, unless we understand the urgency of repentance and reconciliation, the Cross makes no sense; the Resurrection makes no sense. Easter joy is the joy of deliverance and new life. If we don’t believe in our bones that we really do desperately need these things, Easter is just another excuse for a holiday sale; and the Sacrament of Penance, and our fasting and almsgiving, are a waste of time.
But in the silence of our own hearts, if we’re honest, we know we hunger for something more than our own selfishness and mistakes. We were made for glory, and we’re empty of that glory until God fills us with his presence. All things are made new in the victory of Jesus Christ – even sinners like you and me. The blood of the Cross washes away death. It purifies us as vessels for God’s new life. The Resurrection fills us with God’s own life.
~ Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, “Three simple questions on the threshold of Lent – Catholic Philly”
When a person truly knows Jesus Christ and believes in him, he experiences his presence in life and the power of his Resurrection and he cannot do anything but communicate this experience. And if this person meets with misunderstanding or adversity, he conducts himself as Jesus did in his Passion: he responds with love and with the power of truth.
~ Pope Francis, April 15, 2013, via Little Portion Hermitage
At Easter, on the morning of the first day of the week, God said once again: “Let there be light”. The night on the Mount of Olives, the solar eclipse of Jesus’ passion and death, the night of the grave had all passed. Now it is the first day once again – creation is beginning anew. “Let there be light”, says God, “and there was light”: Jesus rises from the grave. Life is stronger than death. Good is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Truth is stronger than lies. The darkness of the previous days is driven away the moment Jesus rises from the grave and himself becomes God’s pure light. But this applies not only to him, not only to the darkness of those days. With the resurrection of Jesus, light itself is created anew. He draws all of us after him into the new light of the resurrection and he conquers all darkness. He is God’s new day, new for all of us.
~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, Easter Vigil Mass 2012
Most certainly, it is easier to believe now that the sun warms us, and we know that buds will appear on the sycamore trees in the wasteland across from the Catholic Worker office, that life will spring out of the dull clods of that littered park across the way. There are wars and rumors of war, poverty and plague, hunger and pain. Still, the sap is rising, again there is the resurrection of spring, God’s continuing promise to us that He is with us always, with His comfort and joy, if we will only ask.
~Dorothy Day, “The Mystery of the Poor”