A lot of amazing things happen at Easter. Jesus dies and rises again; the Eucharist is instituted; mankind is redeemed. As if thatâ€™s not enough, we get to receive Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, welcome new Catholics into the Church, and rejoice with every being in creationâ€“from the old lady sitting behind you who sings off-key to the last star in the farthest reaches of the cosmosâ€“that Godâ€™s love conquers all darkness. And to top it all off, Lent is over, and we can drink wine or eat chocolate again. Pretty amazing, right?
Iâ€™m not so sure anymore.
It never struck me until the Gospel at the Easter Vigil Mass. Mary Magdalene and the other women, who want to honor Jesusâ€™s body and see Him one last time, are worrying about how theyâ€™re going to get inside the tomb when they discover that the large stone is rolled aside, Jesus is gone, and thereâ€™s some guy wearing a white robe sitting inside. Mark says they were â€œutterly amazed.â€ But the guy (who we can assume is an angel) tells them, very calmly, â€œDo not be amazed!â€
So the first thing God tells us right after the most amazing events that ever occurred on the planet is â€œDo not be amazed!â€ But why not!?
Before I tried to answered that question, my mind jumped ahead to the Ascension. After the apostles watch Jesus ascend to Heaven, literally rising to the clouds right in front of them, two more angels appear. (It must be the guy from the tomb and a buddy, because theyâ€™re so matter-of-fact.) They say, â€œWhy do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.â€ (Acts 1:11)
So apart from the fact that angels are a pretty unruffled bunch, we can also sense a similar message in what they say. Theyâ€™re telling the apostles to stop squinting up at the sky and to start spreading the Gospel, to stop being amazed by what they just saw and get to work.
I spent some more time thinking about this during Mass. And hereâ€™s three reasons why, after I left the church after midnight, I think we should stop being amazed by God.
1. If something is amazing, you didn
â€™t expect it.
The angelâ€™s strange message made me go to the dictionary and look up â€œamazing.â€ I found â€œto overwhelm with surprise or sudden wonder; astonish greatly.â€ Looking back on the Gospel, it makes sense; the women were taken completely by surprise, as I would have been. But the angelâ€™s calm message and matter-of-fact tone also make sense. The angel saw all of this coming; he wasnâ€™t shocked at all.
From our perspective, we know Christ died and rose; while we can rejoice in that fact or even be filled with wonder at it, itâ€™s hard for us to be surprised by it. But maybe weâ€™re surprised by other things. Like when a prayer is answered, or when we get a great blessing, or when we find strength during a tough challenge. I know Iâ€™m caught off guard by Godâ€™s grace and generosity. I also think Iâ€™m going to try and stop being surprised. Christ said that the Heavenly Father knows our needs and will care for us. Why should it be a surprise when He actually does it?
2. We can
â€™t limit God by our expectations.
Thereâ€™s another person who was amazed in the Gospel, but this time, itâ€™s Jesus. He encounters a centurion who asks for the healing of his servant. Jesus, moved by the request, asks if He should go to the sick man, but the centurion refuses. The man explains that just as his soldiers carry out orders because of his authority, so will the sick man be healed by the order of Jesus; itâ€™s not necessary for Jesus to be there for it to happen. â€œWhen Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, â€˜Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.â€™â€ (Matthew 8:10)
Do you think the centurion walked back to his servant wondering if he was actually healed? Do you think he was shocked to walk into the room and find the man healthy? I donâ€™t think so. He was someone who, believing in God, accepted Godâ€™s power as it is. We can have this faith by not putting limitations on what God can do and trusting in His power even when something appears impossible from our own perspective.
3. God wants our love, not our amazement.
One other thing struck me during Reading 3 of the Vigil Mass, the parting of the Red Sea. After the Egyptian army is drowned and washed up on the shore, the Israelites â€œfeared the LORD and believed in him and in his servant Moses.â€ (Exodus 14:31) And Iâ€™d be believing, too, after the pillars of fire and the walls of water and the smiting and such. But these are the people who, soon after this, begin complaining to the Lord and saying it would be better to be back in Egypt. The same people! Itâ€™s obvious that their fear of Godâ€™s power and their amazement at what occurred wore off quickly.
We who are living today have probably not seen pillars of fire or had Jesus appear to us. Maybe that is an invitation to a more mature faith, a faith that does not need to witness supernatural events to be strong. Itâ€™s true that God can do things that are wonderful and awesome and mighty, and not being amazed by Godâ€™s action does not mean we take them for granted. Rather, it means that we should expect them of God, and respond with love and gratitude rather than being merely wowed.
In this Easter time of celebration, letâ€™s you and I ask for the faith of the Roman centurion. And, just like the very chill angel, letâ€™s not be amazed when God answers our prayer.
Blog written by members of The Crossroads Pursuit