So during this eight-days-in-one that we call the Easter octave, we've been reflecting about what the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, means. We've looked at what the Apostles meant, and that the Church still means the same thing today. We've looked at how the Resurrection manifests Jesus as Lord and God, with power over life and death - and how he plans to share his kingdom with us by giving us a new way of life. We've looked at how that new way of life can begin now, and how it will lead us to an eternity of joy.
So what is the proper response of a Christian? Let's look at Psalm 116, my favorite, for some suggestions.
I love the LORD, because he has heardThe Psalmist is deeply grateful to the LORD for having saved him from the "snares of death," the "pangs of Sheol," and from anguish and distress. When he was tearfully stumbling, consternated by the abandonment of human consolations, God "dealt bountifully" with him. The Psalmist, as he often does, prefigures Christ with his prayers. The Holy Spirit invites us to make the prayer our own, to pray like Jesus, and so the prayer is an invitation to the imitation of Christ. Jesus was raised up from "the snares of death" by God. What was Jesus' response to being raised from the dead?
my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the LORD:
"O LORD, I beseech thee, save my life!"
Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
The LORD preserves the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest;
for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
For thou hast delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling;
I walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.
I kept my faith, even when I said,
"I am greatly afflicted";
I said in my consternation,
"Men are all a vain hope."
What shall I render to the LORD
for all his bounty to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD,
I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
O LORD, I am thy servant;
I am thy servant, the son of thy handmaid.
Thou hast loosed my bonds.
I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the LORD.
I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the LORD,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD!
He offered the Eucharist (Lk 24:30), a word that means "thanksgiving" in Greek, a ceremony that He made a sacrifice of His flesh and blood (1 Cor 11:23-5; Mt 26:26-8) by His sacrifice on the cross, a sacrifice that draws us into communion with Him, and thence to God, and thence to all the others in communion with God for an eternity of Joy (Jn 6:48-57). The Eucharist is literally our participation in Jesus' sacrifice of thanksgiving. It is how we thank God for what He has done for us. Moreover, it is how God does for us what He has done for Jesus.
"Whoa... wait a minute," you might be thinking. "The Eucharist is how God saves me," you start, and then continue, "and it is how I thank God for saving me?" Yup. "But, I don't get it. What does that mean? What do I have to do?" Nothing. Just accept it gratefully. Make it our weekly (daily?) act of thanksgiving to God, and we will have received what He would give us. He doesn't want our actions - whatever you and or I can do, He can do better anyway. He doesn't want our charity. He doesn't want our money. He doesn't want our apologetics or evangelization or even our prayers. Doesn't need 'em.
God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.He just wants us.
The rest will follow. So simple. Die to yourself by going to confession. A real deathblow happens there - the ego is given a tough kidney shot, at the very least. Then go to Mass. Pray silently along with the priest. Enter into the prayers. Enter into Christ. Receive Him with an open heart to whatever He wants. Give thanks and praise. And then "do whatever He tells you," (Jn 2:5).
Friday is the day on which Catholics generally (at least in former times, though we are still asked to) give up meat, in honor of the day on which our Lord gave up His own flesh. May I humbly suggest that, at least during the fifty days of Eastertide, we take up the sacrifice of thanksgiving by going to Mass an extra time, perhaps on Fridays, to sing the praises of God?