“Despite locked doors, Jesus came and stood before them.”
Catholic spirituality, or my own experience of it, puts much focus on the suffering of Christ on the cross. This seems right. Much of life, unfortunately, has to do with pain, disappointment, and even death. Somehow, looking at the Suffering Christ brings context, meaning, and perspective to whatever trials we may face in this life. While I feel sorrow knowing that my own sins had something* to do with why Christ hangs on the cross, I also find comfort in realizing that my pains, too, are somehow joined with Christ’s agony there on Calvary.
Protestants, some anyway, frown on this spirituality of the crucifix. In case you never noticed, their crosses are bare; Jesus no longer hangs in agony and death, but is resurrected in power. They focus on the Christ who lives among us; the Christ who walks through doors to enter right into where we are living. This seems right too. Although, like my patron the apostle, I have difficulty at times believing that he is really there.
This spirituality of a Christ who is alive and can walk in on you at anytime, unannounced, is a disconcerting one. You never know where he might show up next. There are some rooms of my dwelling where I have posted “Keep Out” signs, but this Risen Christ apparently cannot read for he comes in anyway and pokes around disturbing my privacy and peace. As disquieting as this can initially be, at least he never leaves without offering to help tidy the place up a bit.
We need both spiritualities, the Suffering Christ and the Risen Christ. If we focus only on Christ on the cross, there is the danger of keeping Christ fixed at a certain spot where we can keep an eye on him. Christ becomes a stationary dispenser to whom we go to at our pleasure when we want a measure of grace. To focus on the Risen Christ alone, I think, can lead to an unwarranted optimism. While the resurrection does promise ultimate victory, we can not forget that it came after the cross and the grave. A spirituality that suggests life is a rose garden is seeing it from too far a distance to detect the thorns.
Second Sunday of Easter Acts 4: 32-35, 1 Jn 5: 1-6, Jn 20: 19-31
Peace Connections: Making the connection between the Sunday Readings and issues of peace and justice. Copyright 1995, by Thomas L. Garlitz. “Not for profit” permission to reprint granted.
*To be clear, I do not subscribe to a penal substitution, retributive justice, or Anselmian understanding of Atonement.