As Easter approaches, a friar describes the vulnerability to “the storm without and the storm within,” focusing on the joy that comes from faith. He says that being a community of believers where people lend one another a hand is “perhaps the only work that matters in the end.”
Does faith in the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead make a difference in your life? In mine? Does the back-to-life of an itinerant rabbi in the first century have anything to say about human dignity? Does it have anything to say about hunger in the world? Does it have anything to say to refugees still risking their lives to find a homeland? Does it have anything to say to Israel? Or, to Palestine? Does it have anything to say to ISIS? Does it have anything to say to the suffering of this world? Does it have anything to say about the disparity of wealth, in our own country growing more shamefully day by day? Does it have anything to say about health care for the poorest of our people? Does it have anything to say about you, about your family, about your relationships, about your struggle to make a living? If it doesn’t, then it’s just another spin on springtime. It’s just like caterpillars becoming butterflies, and the commercial world is right to use it as an occasion for colored eggs and chocolate bunnies.
The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead indeed speaks to us and to this world of ours. Because beneath our clothes, our reputations, our pretensions, and beneath our religious practice or lack of it, we are all vulnerable to what one author describes as “the storm without and the storm within”. The ‘storm without’ is the chaos and tragedy of the world; the ‘storm within’ is our own struggle, our own fear of failure and pain. I don’t know about you, but I have a found need for someone to help me quiet these storms. I am deeply grateful for many of you — my brothers, and for those men and women who have graced my life as minister of the gospel over the years — who have helped me to quiet my storms without and my storms within. I submit to you that Jesus Christ does it for me as well, and I know, for many of us, just as he did for those who first came to believe in him.
Consider this woman, Mary of Magdala. She was no fool. She loved this Jesus deeply. She was with him during some of his toughest times. She couldn’t let him go. After his mother, she was the most important woman in his life. She was as unbelieving of his death as any of us would be toward one we had loved over the years suddenly and cruelly taken from life before his time. There was a storm without and a storm within her life. The story of her coming to his tomb after his death is tender. She has had a sleepless night. She’s frightened when she sees the tomb empty. She runs away from the tomb. Her heart is broken, and she seeks answers. She tells two of his disciples, Peter and John. They run to the tomb. And the bible says: “They saw and believed.”
And then what happened to them? The storm without and the storm within began to quiet down.
They began to live with hope and without fear. That’s it — To live with hope and without fear.
We read later on what that hope and absence of fear meant in their lives, as they lived in a hostile world that would try at every turn to crush their hopes and magnify their fears. They began to form a community of believers, which meant then, as it does now, a community where they lent one another a hand when the other was falling. This, then and now, it’s perhaps the only work that matters in the end.
The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is an event which changed people’s lives then, and is able to change people’s lives now. So the question is haunting. “What does the truth of the event mean for me, and for those of us who believe?” I can’t answer for everyone, only for myself. For me, it means that I can live in hope and live without fear. Can you do that? Can you continue to live in hope in a world that seems to grow more violent and confused – a world that seems to thrive on revenge and retribution, a world of shrill voices, a growing lack of civility in civic discourse? Can you live a life of peaceful resolution to crisis? Do you have the personal resources to do that? Can you, do you, live without fear? Fear can never be the motive for anything you do or not do. Fear enslaves you if you allow it a welcome. I think it’s true for many of us. I know it’s true for me. I fear failure, I fear misunderstanding, I fear humiliation, I fear isolation. I fear growing old – and I don’t have to.
I marvel at those who first believed in his resurrection. I marvel at their metamorphosis from fear to fearlessness, from skepticism to belief, and from disappointment to hope. I trust them and their witness. For me, they’re believable. I have learned from them as they adjusted their priorities, they were empowered by a new paradigm for living. I stand with them as they came to grips with a crucified messiah, whose teaching of healing and forgiveness, understanding and tolerance, of peaceful resolution, changed them. Their experiences, their growth, their grappling with the realities of their own lives in light of the resurrection of their Lord, provides for me a challenge to be a man of faith, of hope and love.
The world belongs to those who bring it the greatest hope and absence of fear. Jesus of Nazareth — his life, his death, and yes, his resurrection — that is, his life-giving presence in the world, empowers millions of us to bring hope to the world. If we continue to struggle to bring his cry for justice and peace to a world bereft of sanity, then we are his disciples just as surely as were those first witnesses.
Then, both the storm within and the storm without will never harm us ultimately and we will know the joy that comes from faith in him and his resurrection.
– Fr. David, who moved to Loudonville, N.Y., last fall after living for 30 years in North Carolina, professed his first vows as a Franciscan in 1958. An essay that he wrote about his Franciscan Journey appears in the Who We Are section of the HNP.org website.
Editor’s note: Friars interested in writing a reflection for HNP Today on a timely topic – a holiday, holy day or other seasonal theme – are invited to contact the HNP Communications Office at email@example.com. The previous reflection, about Pope Francis, was written by James Sabak, OFM.