That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
John 21: 7
The resurrection of Jesus draws us all into a new life. The resurrection stories which we read these days describe for us that newness of life which Jesus’ resurrection inaugurates. As Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians (2:20):” “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Our life is a life in faith in Jesus the Risen One, in whom we share the life of the Mystery of the Trinity. As we hear in the words of John to Peter in today’s gospel, at each moment and in each event of life we can say: “It is the Lord.”” Most of us can appreciate such an “epiphany” in moments of what Abraham Maslow called “peak experiences.”” For Maslow such experiences were somewhat confined to those who achieved the stage of “self-actualization.”” It was only” the uncommonly developed, that is self-actualized, person who was capable of such manifestations of human possibility.
The mystical view of Jan van Ruusbroec, however, is quite different. Ruusbroec speaks of the person who realizes, and so rests in, the presence of God throughout all experiences of life as the “common person.”” God’s life in us, and our life in God, are what all human persons hold “in common.”” Recognizing that in everything that occurs in life “It is the Lord,” is not a feat that few self-actualized persons achieve. It is rather what the person who is “crucified with Christ” comes to know in his or her poverty and humility.
What it means to live in faith is to live trusting that the Lord is here in whatever we are undergoing in our lives. it is not an act of will, whereby we superimpose our own sense of God and God’s will onto life’s events. Certainly not the facile way we can utter, in the face of disaster, that “It’s God’s will.”” It is not a naive optimism that evades the pain of life by interpreting even the most difficult and painful experiences as “all for the best.”” It is rather a practice of “withholding judgment” about the meaning of things, entering and living them fully while resting in the God within both ourselves and the event, yet whose mode of presence remains hidden to our intellects. As with the disciples as they encounter the Risen Jesus, it is knowing of the Lord’s presence in this place without being able to recognize him.
In our prevalent psychological theories, it is a personal project of self-actualization that enables us to realize “fullness of life.”” It is up to us to develop our own capacities for an expansion of our consciousness. Yet, the Christian formation tradition, as well as that of all the great wisdom traditions, has a very different view. As Ruusbroec describes it, it is when we are in the “valley of humility” that the sun shines most brightly on us. The light of the resurrection will illumine our lives in their every respect to the degree that we are empty of our own claims of self-rule and our illusions of autonomy. The more that the Lord becomes greater and we become less, the more readily we will recognize that “It is the Lord.” in every moment of our lives.
Let us profit by what every day and hour teaches us, as it flies. What is dark while it is meeting us, reflects the Sun of Righteousness when it is past. Let us profit by this in future, so far as this, to have “faith in what” we cannot see. The world seems to go on as usual. There is nothing of heaven in the face of society; in the news of the day there is nothing of heaven; in the faces of the many, or of the great, or of the rich, or of the busy, there is nothing of heaven; in the words of the eloquent, or the deeds of the powerful, or the counsels of the wise, or the resolves of the lordly, or the pomps of the wealthy, there is nothing of heaven. And yet, the Ever-blessed Spirit of God is here; the Presence of the Eternal Son, ten times more glorious, more powerful than when He trod the earth in the flesh, is with us. Let us ever bear in mind this divine truth,—the more secret God’s hand is, the more powerful—the more silent, the more awful. We are under the awful ministration of the Spirit, against whom whoso speaks, hazards more than can be reckoned up; whom whoso grieves, loses more of blessing and glory than can be fathomed. The Lord was with Joseph, and the Lord was with David, and the Lord, in the days of His flesh, was with His Apostles; but now, He is with us in the Spirit. And inasmuch as the Divine Spirit is more than flesh and blood; inasmuch as the risen and glorified Saviour is more powerful than when He was in the form of a servant; inasmuch as the Eternal Word, spiritualizing His own manhood, has more of virtue for us, and grace, and blessing, and life, than when concealed in it, and subject to temptation and pain; inasmuch, as faith is more blessed than sight; by so much more are we now more highly privileged, have more title to be called kings and priests unto God, even than the disciples who saw and touched Him. He who glorified Christ, imparts Him thus glorified to us. If He could work miracles in the days of His flesh, how much more can He work miracles now?” And if His visible miracles were full of power, how much more His miracles invisible?” Let us beg of Him grace wherewith to enter into the depth of our privileges,—to enjoy what we possess,—to believe in, to use, to improve, to glory in our present gifts as “members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.”
John Henry Newman, Sermon XVII, Christ Manifested in Remembrance