diofav 23

Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

gallagher fredGiven that our faith is built upon Christ’s coming into the world, serving us, suffering and dying for us, and then rising from the dead, it is natural to speculate all the more about what His rising means in our lives.

We know it means that Jesus is the Son of God and that the fulfillment of His promise to us was made evident when the stone was rolled away and an empty tomb held only His burial cloth. We know it means that not only do we belong to Him but that He belongs to the Father and returns to the Father in the Resurrection. And Their love is so powerful and penetrating it is an actual person in the Holy Spirit.

But once we know this, what does this rising light of the Resurrection mean to us in our daily lives? To answer that warrants our taking a look at the darkness. Where have you been? What is the darkness you have witnessed or been a part of? Is it in the shattering loneliness children have felt in the break-up of their families? Is it in the corrosion of hatred, the debilitation of addiction, the desperation of suicide? Is it in the human degradation that is war in violent fields afar or down our street or in our homes? Is it in the slow seep of doubt brought on by a materialist philosophy so common in our technological, secular world? Does the dark show up in disease, the sudden heart-wrenching loss or protracted suffering of a loved one? Does darkness creep steadily in the guise of sins so small we think we needn’t tend to them until one day we look back and realize how changed we are? We are in exile here on earth and the dark surely engulfs us. We crouch down in it, we curl up in it.

But “light rises in the darkness for the upright.” The upright. Yes, we’re asked to stand. We are asked to rise up and out of ourselves as the light is rising. But how do we do it?

A friend of mine in recovery from alcoholism responded to the call in AA’s 12 Steps for a spiritual awakening. He said, “If I wake up in the morning it’s a spiritual awakening!” He also told the story of a fellow at an AA meeting with a group of old-timers (folks who have been sober a long time) talking about a spiritual awakening. He cornered one of them after the meeting and said, “You know, I understand just about everything I hear, but I just can’t seem get this spiritual awakening stuff.” The old-timer asked him how long he had been sober, and he replied, “Two years.” “You’ve had it!” the old-timer said and walked away.

Sometimes we think of spiritual experiences or spiritual awakenings (the light rising) as coming from somewhere other than our daily lives, somewhere other than the grit and grime and glory of our everyday intimacies, our personal contact with people and animals and nature and ideas. The rising of the light is possible every moment of the day and in every single action that occurs. It is possible in every thought, every wish, every forward motion and in every restraint. The light rises in our minds and in our hearts, and it animates our hands in the work we do and our footsteps in where we choose to go. All we do is stand up and we find a gracious God anxious to show His mercy, anxious for each of us to embrace a way of living that lends dignity to the time we have here. And perhaps it can even be instructive for those we love.

The light in my life rises in the sound of my daughters laughing together. It rises in a private text from my son in college when he says, “I love you, too, Dad.” It rises hearing my wife sing a jazz standard or watching her affection with our new great big rescue dog. And it always rises in the private little inside jokes that only we have known for so many years. Light rises in my life when at Mass the Down Syndrome child three pews ahead turns around and stares curiously at me. It rises when my old confessor, now with Alzheimer’s, calls from his monastery in Wisconsin to chat. It rises in a holiday letter to my brothers, in one more bench press with my gracious God right there in the sore muscles and in five more minutes of a neighborhood walk in the still brisk twilight. And I feel the light rising in so many of the kindnesses shown me over so many years. It rises, still, incredibly, in the forgiveness others have shown me. I see it in the eyes of strangers and in the eyes of those I love. It rises in my Church and in my workplace and in my home.

Yes, it is Easter and the light rises. And it will keep rising until there is no more darkness to trip us up and again, nothing left in the tomb but the burial cloth.

Fred Gallagher is an author and editor-in-chief with Gastonia-based Good Will Publishers Inc.