No doubt about it. The resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate God surprise. What an unexpected and amazing event in a dark and difficult time.
Yes, God gave us a heads up that he was a God of surprises when he chose lowly Abraham to be the Father of many nations and gave Sarah a son in her later years. We were surprised at the path Moses took to free his people in Egypt and the youngest son, a shepherd boy who would become king.
The surprises intensified as the Messiah came as a baby born in a manger to a young unwed mother and would grow up and give his life on a cross. If we were standing shoulder to shoulder with the first disciples, we would be experiencing jaw-dropping events.
It is the resurrection of Jesus however, that takes our breath away and urges us to boldly proclaim eternal salvation. I would love to have seen the look on the faces of Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ mother and the apostles when they saw our risen Lord. I can only imagine. Their lives were just changed forever. Surprise!
We know that with the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ family, friends and followers turned that grand surprise into their life’s mission. They were committed and went about the business of telling their world in word and witness about their Lord and Savior. They prepared their world for eternity and they were bold in a dangerous time.
The message of Easter is still a surprise. The joy on our faces should be remarkable and our response bold! We can and should help to prepare today’s world for eternity. I know that so many of you are already deeply entrenched in that mission and you are models for all of us! What are some ideas for the rest of us?
Be intentional. Be prepared. Say out loud with Easter energy: “Lord, thank you for my salvation! Help me to live my life for you! What is it you are asking of me? How can I share this wonderful surprise?
Be a steward of prayer and reflection. Feed your soul and Easter Spirit with encouraging God-filled books, small group discussions, lectures and, of course, Mass and the devotions of our church. Each Easter season is not the last word on our spiritual journey. Jesus continues to inspire and teach us each Easter of our lives. Continue to ask God to heal those areas that, as Matthew Kelly would say, hinder you from being the best version of yourself. Be hungry and be surprised at how God speaks to your heart.
With Easter courage, try talking to a friend about Jesus. Tell them in a simple manner how the Easter story has changed your life. Share how your faith in the Easter story has brought joy in knowing that a faithful loved one who has passed is with God.
In prayer and with Easter passion, ask God to place an important service on your heart. I am constantly amazed in my own parish and when I’m out in the diocese, how gifted people find their way into perfect ministries. Each of us is gifted with incredible talents that we cannot deny because they were given to us by our Creator. Find your place. You know it is the right one when it brings your life meaning and joy. Help other people find their place.
Easter Sunday changed how the early disciples saw their world and each other. They watched their Master go “all-in” and he expected that from them. Jesus held nothing back and his disciples followed in his footsteps. You and I are called to see the world through different lenses and respond with Easter generosity. Our parishes are the way we encourage each other, worship and bring the message of Easter to our neighborhoods and they need our support.
People in our country and world experience injustice, are hungry and need our help. Sometimes it is overwhelming. If everyone asked God to help them target the place of their Easter generosity and we shared generously of our financial blessings, we could make great strides in preparing ourselves and our world for eternity.
The God surprise that is Easter should continually encourage us to be bold, intentional, courageous, passionate, energetic and generous all year long. If we truly understand the resurrection event, how can it not continue to take our breath away? Happy Easter everyone! Surprise!
Otto is Stewardship and Special Projects director for the diocesan Stewardship and Pastoral Services Department.