2. CHRIST IS ALIVE! Traces of a presence

Traces of a presence

1. We are facing a Christian central experience that is not only a experience of God but also an experience of Christ: Christ is alive! he is with you, according to his promise (Mt 28,20). This must be announced, so it is believed and so it is lived, “but, how will they call on some one in whom they have not believed? And how will they believe in some one of whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without  any announcement? And how will it be announced to them if they are not sent? As the Scripture says: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!”(Rm 10,14-15). In different circumstances and situations, Christian experience of faith includes several constants of apostolic evangelization that are always valid and also nowadays. Let us see.
2. Jesus’ evangelization had started outside Jewish circles, in Galilee, but their final destiny was Judea. In Judea,  Jerusalem. An in Jerusalem,  the temple, center of the religious, political and economic power. A  risky, compromised, dangerous destiny. Jerusalem, the most religious town on earth, is also the town that kills the prophets (Mt 23,37). Jesus goes up to Jerusalem humbly, peacefully, without imposing himself in force. Jerusalem has nothing to be afraid of (Jn 12,15). The path to Jerusalem ended in the temple. The temple is stained: it should be a house of prayer but it has become a den of thieves (Mk 11, 17). So the temple must be purified. Moreover it must be substituted (Jn 2,13.22). The new temple, it does not mind where (Jn 4,21), will be built with living stones (1P 2,5).
3. The denunciation of the temple determines the process opened against Jesus, condemned as blasphemous (Mt 26,59-66). They want to kill him, but the Jews could not execute anybody (Jn 18,31). Romans controlled the power of the death penalty. And  not only that, but also the nomination and destitution of the high priest as well as the scribes’ properties. Jesus was lead to the praetorium so that Roman authority could finish the process. Official reason for condemnation: political plot (Mt 27,37). From now on it is forbidden to evangelize without taking part in the conflict that led Christ to the cross: “we announce a Christ crucified” (1Co 1,23).
4. What happened afterwards, Peter proclaimed it on Pentecost day, as the center of the Christian message. What was unheard of, unthinkable, and incredible occurred: “Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2,36). This is already the great event: Jesus crucified by the turbid justice of this world, had been constituted the Lord of history: same than God! The Kingdom of God is manifested in Jesus´ person, constituted Lord and Christ. Psalm 110 is accomplished: “Said the Lord to my Lord: sit to my right”. The newborn Church has experience of it, because it had been given to recognize Jesus through the many signs that happened as a fruit of his Pasch. His Pasch, his pass, , which initiated for the whole world the dawn of a new day, the resurrection day, a day that never will end..
5. The fact that Jesus be recognized as the Lord of history means a profound, radical change: “now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What must we do, my brothers?” Pedro answered them: Repent (Acts 2,37). Turn away from that justice and order that condemned Christ! First Christians become “crazy”: they had everything in common! (Acts 4,32). Really, conversion is always done within a process. It is a follow-up. Every step will be making a story that will be recognized and celebrated as a story of salvation.
6. Forgiveness, amnesty, fulfilment from God’s side is an essential part of the good news of the Gospel: God has nothing against you God loves you. St. Peter proclaims it on Pentecost day (Acts 2,38). S. Paul proclaimed it at Antioch in Pisidia (13, 35). Whoever  starts to believe and starts to change is already judged favourably by God. In the personal encounter with Christ, dead and resurrected, “God’s justice” is manifested, not the justice that condemns, but the one that saves (Rm 3, 21-22). As St. John says: “Whoever believes in him will not be judged” (Jn 3,18).
7. Action of the Spirit is a reality that springs forth in Christ’s  Resurrection (Jn 7,37-39). From then on, the time of the Spirit has arrived. The Spirit is the great promise of Jesus (Jn 14, 16.26; 16, 7-15), and also for today’s world: “The promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far away, for all those who call Lord our God” (Acts 2,38). Faith experience is made possible in the dynamics of the Spirit.
8. The apostles refer to the experience of the Spirit as a fact that everyone can experience: “what you see and listen” (2, 33). The action of the Spirit means fulfilment of Jesus’ promise: “They are not drunk” (Acts 2,15). What happens is that the mission of Jesus is being vindicated by the Father. And in what a way! God is doing “a work that you will never believe, even if someone tells you” (13,41). So, if the message seems incredible, it is true that it is announced in the middle of a challenge: “about which we are all witnesses” (2,32). And further more, anyone can be: “exalted by the right hand of God, he received the promised Spirit from the Father and he had poured forth what you see and hear”. (2,33).
9. Whoever embraces evangelization is incorporated into the community. To evangelize is not only to form Christians, but also to form community. The disciple of Jesus is neither isolated nor does he go on his own, but forms a group, forms community. The community is born and grows up by evangelization action: “Every day the Lord added to their number those who will be saved (Acts 2,47).
10. In our society many are the baptized but few the evangelized. Apart from quantity data we still can (and must) ask to ourselves: Who have come to  recognize  that Jesus is the Lord? Who live the justice of the Gospel? Who confess to believe in the whole faith of the Church? Who live their faith in community? Who are witness of it? Who allow themselves to be lead by the action of the Spirit?   Who  share the conflict that led Christ to the cross? Finally, who are  basically  evangelized? Even bargaining a lot, like Abraham (Gn 18,28-32), we have to recognize that there are really few and we should conclude with a “national confession” (Ps 106): Spain is also a country of mission
11. Christian faith experience has this constant in the apostolic evangelization, really central: is the experience of Christ Resurrected, constituted Lord. Let us see the traces of his presence or, said in other way, some more important features of this experience, that signals the identity of the new born Church and, also, of today’s Church.
12. In first place, Jesus Resurrected, constituted Lord of history, is not at once recognized; rather, the disciples are late to recognize him. So happens to those of Emaús, who in the way back they go talking about the failure of their hope (Lk 24, 21), and they recognize him when breaking the bread: “Then their eyes opened and they recognize him” (24, 31); before that, “their eyes were retained” (24, 16), they have been “foolish and late” (24, 25), although they have perceived something special: “Was not our heart burning when he was talking to us in the way and he explained us the Scriptures? (24, 32). Something similar happens to Mary Magdalene in the orchard (Jn 20, 15) and to the disciples in the lake (Jn 21, 4)

13. The disciples are late in recognizing him, among other motives, because Jesus has deeply changed: his presence mood is different. He is not any more with us in the manner of a man, but in the manner of God. It is to say, like Lord. And in this manner everybody identifies him and recognizes him: those of Emmaus, who come back to Jerusalem and share the good news: “It is true. The Lord has resurrected” (Lk 24, 34); Mary Magdalene, who reacts with a word usually reserved to God: “Rabboni”, more solemn than “rabbi”, which means “master” (Jn 20, 16); the loved disciple, who announces to his fishing fellows: “It is the Lord” (Jn 21, 7. 12); Thomas, who goes from incredulity to faith: “My Lord and my God” (Jn 20, 28). With the acknowledgment,  peace, astonishment, joy impose: “The disciples were joyful to see the Lord” (Jn 20, 20); Lk 24, 41)

14. Jesus of Nazareth, constituted Lord, is recognized in the ordinary circumstances of life, in which the resurrection good news burst. For instance, the way back and the frustrated hope of those of Emmaus (Lk 24, 21), the search and tears of Mary Magdalene (Jn 20, 11 – 15), the useless night of those disciples who had gone fishing (Jn 21, 3), the Thomas´ mistrusting and skeptic attitude(Jn 20, 25)

15. Jesus of Nazareth is acknowledged Lord of history in the middle of events that become signs. So, those of Emmaus acknowledge him when he breaks the bread and in everything that had been happening that day: the burning word of the unknown walkman, the fire in the heart, the sense of the Scriptures like key of the events, the deep interpellation, the hospitality gesture, the blessing, the shared table, the “incredible” presence (Lk 24, 32; 24, 25 – 31); in the set of events that happen in the orchard (like the rest, simply described) Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus in the word he is addressed (Jn 20, 16); the same happens to the disciples: at the shore of the lake (Jn 21, 4 – 13), in the cenacle (Jn 20, 19 – 21; Lk 16, 14 – 18; Lk 24, 36 – 49), over the mountain (Mt 28, 16), to all those to whom he manifests himself in his word

16. Resurrected Jesus is present in history in God´s manner, like Lord: this explains that he be only recognized by the believers, it is to say, by those who acknowledge God´s action in history. In effect, Resurrected Jesus does not make himself present “in the weakness of the flesh”, but “in the dynamics of the spirit of God”: “Nobody can say: Jesus is the Lord!, but under the influence of the saint spirit” (1 Co 12, 3)

17. Jesus resurrection and his constitution like Lord is a transcendent event, that – nevertheless – has its historic signals, really tangible for the believers. So, these can say that Jesus walks with them (Lk 24, 15), eats and drinks with them (24, 30. 43), he fishes with them (Jn 21, 6), he meets with them, he presents himself among them, although the doors are closed (Jn 21, 19). Resurrected Jesus is, as living God, in the heart of history. And he repeats the signs that confirmed his mission, what allows to recognize him. Besides, such signs confirm the disciples´ mission (Mk 16, 20).

18. The fact that Jesus is recognized like Lord of history means a deep change, radical (Acts 2, 37). The first Christians show “stupefied and perplexed” (1, 12), they seem “drunk” (1, 13), they become “crazy”, they place everything in common (2, 42 – 44; 4, 32 – 35). Special impact is constituted by the spectacular change experimented by Paul of Tarsus: “Is this not the one who cast out in Jerusalem all those calling upon his Name?” (9, 20). At the end, conversion to the Gospel is a radical change: “You must be born again”, says Jesus to Nicodemus (Jn 3, 37). This radical change is also expressed in other ways, as a pass from the thirst to the water of life (Jn 4), from blindness to light (Jn 9), from death to life (Jn 11).

* We can revise if our experience of Christ also has these features:
- he is not recognize all of a sudden
- his mood of presence is different
- in the ordinary circumstances of life
- among the event that become signs
- in his word
- when breaking the bread
- in the dynamic of the spirit of God
- only by believers
- they become “crazy”
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