The readings during Eastertide have showcased the disciples' difficulty in recognizing the Risen Lord. Mary Magdalene mistakes him for the gardener when he appears to her in the empty tomb. Thomas is highly skeptical until he puts his hand in the wounds in Jesus' hands and side. The disciples don't recognize Jesus on the beach until they cast their nets and lug them out of the water heavy with fish--153 of them, to be exact. What is extraordinary about these stories is that the experience of new life is greeted initially with uncertainty, and even suspicion. Instead of shouting the good news from the rooftops, everyone is a little tentative. Haziness and confusion surround the truth of Jesus' resurrection. No one seems to see what's right in front of their eyes. Saul of Tarsus, as a matter of fact, emerges from his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus blind as a bat, completely helpless and vulnerable.
Last Sunday, as I stood at the altar celebrating Mass, I was also celebrating the 12th anniversary of my baptism, recalling my own experience of profound vulnerability in the chilling water of the font. Like Saul, I had assumed a new identity. I hadn't, of course, been in the middle of a murderous rampage when the call to follow Jesus came, but it was no less transformative for me. It was a pivotal step in a lifelong struggle to know God that has always been characterized by failures, mistakes, and cluelessness, as well as grace. For twenty years, I walked away from God out of hurt and anger, and I languished in my perception of his absence. Maybe it's good to have time to cool off, so that when God calls again, we are receptive to the divine urging. That's what happened to me. Fr. Steve Martz asked me one Sunday, "are you not receiving communion because you're not baptized?" I responded, "yes," "Well, would you like to be?" he continued. "Yes," I said without skipping a beat, shocking myself. "Now, where did that come from?" I puzzled. I had been sought; and I had been claimed. I knew that God was speaking to me the first time I heard in the hymn that "Jesus sought me when a stranger wandering from the fold of God; he to rescue me from danger interposed his precious blood."
Easter joy and blessings,