Early in the Morning

Christ is risen!

Despite our best efforts as believers, it is often hard to see the glory for the gloom. For large numbers of unemployed in this country, hope may seem dim. Likewise, the people of Haiti, who have been suffering through an extended Good Friday, may well feel fated to disaster. For Catholics in Ireland and Germany, after revelations in recent weeks of sexual abuse of children there, signs of new life may likewise be hard to see.


But as the Easter Gospels relate, it took time too for Jesus’ disciples to come to see the Easter light. In Luke’s Gospel Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James visit the tomb of Jesus “at daybreak.” According to John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene went alone “early in the morning, while it was still dark.” Probably only the palest of dawns guided their feet, as they made their way to the tomb. The dimness of the light did not deter the women from rushing to devoutly tend to their Lord.

Often it is difficult for us, too, to see what lies ahead in our lives. The past is shrouded in darkness and the way ahead still heavy with shadows. When will a job come? Will it mean starting over in a new field, entail new training and relocation? After the spreading sexual abuse crisis, can we ever feel as confident that the church will be for us the spotless bride of Christ, an unsullied source of grace? Can the faithful continue to regard bishops as our pastors without their publicly taking responsibility for the failures of supervision that in many cases made the crisis much worse? In frustration and disillusionment, we strain to see; our vision is impaired.

For most of us, even for saints, puzzlement is entwined with faith. In Luke’s Gospel the women peer into the tomb and are “puzzling over” what they see before an angel appears to clear things up. Later, when Peter and “the other disciple” reach the tomb, Peter also seems confused. Only the disciple whom Jesus loved “saw and believed.” Our days, and often our Easters, are marked by a similar confusion and moments of unbelief. If the Easter proclamation “Christ is risen!” does not leave us completely unmoved, it leaves our hearts still longing to overflow with the joy we do not quite feel. Why can’t we be like the disciple John, loving so much that we believe at the sight of the empty tomb? Why must we be like Peter, understanding so slowly and then impulsively moving from doubt to faith?

The disciples repeatedly misapprehend the risen Lord. Mary Magdalene mistakes him for the gardener; and on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, the disciples’ “eyes were kept from recognizing him.” In the Upper Room he appears like a ghost, suddenly and inexplicably standing in their midst. Resurrection exceeds our capacity to comprehend it. Like the disciples, even when confronted with vivid signs of new life, we sometimes fail to understand. Applying for jobs, we become frustrated. Confronted with yet another disaster, we find ourselves overcome with donor fatigue. The repeated narration of the sad facts of sexual abuse wears us down.

Yet even in the midst of dimness, confusion and misunderstanding, men and women of faith can glimpse signs of new life. Darkness, shadow and gloom need not come between us and the Lord. In his new book, Made for Goodness, Archbishop Desmond Tutu reminds us that “every act of kindness enhances the quality of life.” There is good news in that the world has averted a depression and unemployment has begun to abate. It should be heartening, too, that after so many catastrophes, Haiti still engages the world’s commitment. Undeterred by decades of failed experiments, the leading donor nations are undertaking together a long-term reconstruction program for that sorely tested Caribbean nation. Here at home a growing number of young people, even if they are not yet in church pews every Sunday, are doing the work of the church in service programs for the poor.

Some sunlight has even begun to pierce the mushroom cloud. The Obama administration has made elimination of nuclear weapons a long-term goal of American policy, and the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations has declared that “the conditions that prevailed during the cold war, which gave a basis for the church’s limited toleration of nuclear weapons, no longer apply.” He reiterated Pope Benedict XVI’s call for “a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament.”

Around us are signs of new life; we have only to see them to experience the glory of the risen Lord penetrating the shadows of our lives. If Haiti’s earthquake survivors emerged from the rubble singing God’s praises, how can we not chant “Alleluia!” for the signs of new life we encounter when we hear the Easter salutation, “Christ is risen!”?

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C Walter Mattingly
8 years 8 months ago

I can imagine how difficult these acts of sexual misconduct and the mishandling of the small percentage of priests by their superiors must weigh on you, our dear editors, and the good priests we all have had the joy of knowing. Fr. Coropi mentioned that as a small child ran up to him with arms outstretched in an airport, his mother suddenly swooped down and swept him away from Fr. Coropi's embrace, all with an angry scowl. Hard to imagine how that made him feel.  But recall how our church was founded, the three pillars of the early church: Peter, Paul, and Augustine, a liar and cowardly deserter of Jesus at the crucial moment, a paid assassin of Christian men and women, and a decadent voluptuarian in comparison with whom Mick Jaegger, Jack and Ted Kennedy, and Bill Clinton would look like altar boys. That is the rock-solid base of the church and one reason it has prospered-it is a church of metanoia, of sinners and saints. As James Joyce commented, it is built ever mindful of human limitation, and on that "rock"-solid foundation soars to the spires of the greatest cathedrals of mind and matter, faith, hope, and love, upon a foundation which sustains. 

A verbose way of saying we'll muddle through.

And let's not forget that President Obama has built upon the legacy of his predecessor President Bush, who unilaterally approved a larger cut in nuclear warheads than that which Obama has just negotiated.  We do have momentum in certain areas. Perhaps even we will look back upon a democratic Iraq in this decade.

Bernard Campbell
8 years 8 months ago

"Early in the Morning" is a challenge to our cynicism and faith.  We are in the midst of a "mushroom cloud."  This era of profound change for some brings about anger, e.g., lack of civility in the present political and societal arena in United States.  In other parts of the world it is worse, namely, acts of terrorism.  One would wonder if all of this turbulence has arisen out of our arrogant reliance on ourselves?  Many reject religion and choose themselves as their savior.  This is the message contained in the resurrection story about the doubting Thomas.  As you repeatedly say in "Early in the Morning", despite a public life of miracles, it took time for the disciples to establish a faith in their Risen Lord.  Easter is not a return to the past.  Easter, the Resurrection, is hope in the future coming of the Lord into our lives.  As is made clear in the "fifth Gospel" it was not until the Holy Spirit entered into the life of the Church that the hope and joy of the Resurrection became a profound belief in our resurrection from the dark side of our lives and the world around us.

Because of our faith and charity, as we are enveloped in the "era of the mushroom cloud", we enter the future filled with the hope that flows from our belief in the Resurrection.  That divine gift of hope reassures us that, we, women and men, will arise chastened and renewed, like the disciples after the resurrection and descent of the Holy Spirit, despite the turbulence of our mushroom cloud.

Charles Erlinger
8 years 8 months ago

My understanding of hope is that it has to do with confidence in God, that the revealed promise is true.  But I don't think it is the same as wishing.  I think it has something to do with acting.  And I suggest that, with regard to the current condition of the Church, that action may well need to take the form of a Catholic Reformation, and that it probably should be started before some other kind of Reformation takes hold that we probably wouldn't like.  I think we should be looking for our age's equivalent of a St. Francis, or a St. Dominic, or a St. Theresa, or a St. Catherine.  Oh, and throw into the recruitment mix a St. Ambrose of Milan, a lay leader and administrator before he was drafted to lead the faithful, before he was even baptized, to be their bishop. I think he was a lawyer, too, and that can't hurt if, as it appears, canon law is proving to be somewhat irrelevant to our current troubles.

8 years 8 months ago

Why is it that many of our pastoral leaders seem to ignore the pain that they're inflicting on the Body of Christ? As members of the Body of Christ are they not called to attempt to live as models of Christ and to bring hope to those who see a growing mushroom cloud?

What happens to our church when the leadership prefers to protect the human institution with all its earthly trappings caught up in power,prestige and possessions instead of openly seeking reconciliation and performing penance for all the years of ugly cover-up and deceit? Does ordination bestow upon some clergy a certain hubris that disconnects them from serving the lowly with respect and humility? Why is it that Christ neither ordained anyone nor insisted on rebuilding the temple? Could it be that Christ knew that power corrupts humans and that only the power of love matters in his kingdom? Could it also be that Christ was trying to open the hearts of his disciples both women and men to the new reality of Resurrection and Eternal Life? If so, then through our baptism we live within Christ's eternal light even while we still labor here on earth. We then become hope to others who may still doubt if Christ even existed. How do they know us? They know us through our everyday actions of kindness,respect and love.

However, many of our leaders give us "bad press" when they insist on living in the past, holding onto to human structures and its traditions and dividing themselves from the lowly. The Body of Christ is a "flat" organization with Christ as the head. The rest of the members come together through the strength of their love for one another. Nothing else matters - just love. So the light through the mushroom cloud will be much stronger once the hierarchy dissolves and small faith communities focused on helping one another live love each day become the new church. Finally, we will be living as if we truly believe in Christ's Resurrection and the power of Penecost to open our hearts to love unconditionally.

Greta Green
8 years 8 months ago


"Can the faithful continue to regard bishops as our pastors without their publicly taking responsibility for the failures of supervision that in many cases made the crisis much worse? In frustration and disillusionment, we strain to see; our vision is impaired."

When the bishops unite as they recently did to protect life from this administration, it is easy to back them up all the way.  When they allow homosexuals into the priesthood against church teaching and then allow them to molest young boys and the Church does not get these liberal bishops out that created the mess or stop the entrance of those opposed to the actual teaching of the Catholic Church, it is hard to get beind them.  Now with the inspection and changes in the seminaries, zero tolerance to any of abuser, and the recent inspection of the womens religious orders that are hotbeds of dissent, we are heading to a new springtime in the church Pope John Paul II the great yearned for.  The old lefties are getting up there in age.  They new surge of priests attracted to the priesthood by JPII and Benedict will make the church of the future holier and safer for children. 

So my frustration with the church is ending.  Life is improving.  Now if we can just get rid of the socialist democratic party and their leaders, life can really become a new springtime in government as well.  Of course it will take a generation to undo what this president has done in a little over a year.  So yes, cheer on our bishops who stand strong protecting life when the lefty nuns gave those intent on abortion new life.  we can have hope that the Church upon the full extent of the ongong investigation of these nuns make a massive attempt to get them out of the Catholic Church they seem to hate. 

James Holden
8 years 8 months ago

Christ is Risen. / I Believe

2 miracles.

God help me not loose my Faith.

in order to appreciate it as I ought. 


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