So many times in life we are caught off guard and find ourselves surprised at the circumstances set before us. All of us can think of an instance when we found our life radically changed due to an unforeseen happening. Just ask someone diagnosed with cancer, or a victim of a serious car accident, or natural disaster. Life can certainly hand us some unexpected surprises.
In the Gospel reading for Easter Sunday morning (John 20: 1-9), we hear of an unexpected surprise for Mary Magdalene and Simon Peter. Hindsight for them surely pointed to all the instances in which Jesus told them about what would happen. But, that first Easter morning, I am sure they were surprised. It is the precise moment when each realized Jesus was not in the tomb, when he had raised from the dead, that the lives of all of the disciples were forever changed. Pope Emeritus Benedict, or Father Benedict as he prefers to be called, once said;
“Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
Each of the disciples took a different direction after the resurrection of Jesus. While most were eventually killed for their faith, all could not help but share with others how the encounter with Jesus changed their lives.
How do we encounter the Lord for ourselves and not just listen to the experiences of others? We start with making an intentional choice for prayer, which can be an intentional choice to speak with Him in our own words or can be just sitting quietly, allowing Him to read the depths of our hearts. Pope Francis extends an invitation to us:
“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her since no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.”
On this Easter Sunday, let us open our hearts to the unexpected surprises brought by encountering Jesus in the Mass, the Eucharist, in quiet prayer, and through each other. Our lives may just be changed for the better…in an instant.