They stood there dumbfounded 

It is said there is only one thing harder to take than bad news, and that is good news! When a mother is reunited with her son after she thought he was dead, or a wife with her husband, the news can be overwhelming.

Source: They stood there dumbfounded – The Zimbabwean

When the friends of Jesus saw him standing there in the upper room, they could not believe it; ‘they stood there dumfounded.’ Why is good news so hard to take? We long for it and yet when it comes it shocks us. We know all about suffering and pain. But happiness? Real ecstatic happiness? ‘The mind cannot visualize what God has in store for those who love him’ (1 Cor 2:9).

This is the message of the resurrection. It is everything the passion is not. We know a lot about passion, especially our own passion which comes in different ways. But the resurrection? Do we know what it is? Have we experienced the gift of deep happiness, something we cannot arrange or buy?

And yet that is what we are made for: deep fulfilling lasting happiness. We only get glimpses and snippets of it: when our team wins or we listen to great music. C. S. Lewis in, Surprised by Joy, ‘describes his joy as so intense it could not be explained with words. He is struck with “stabs of joy” throughout his life. “Joy is distinct not only from pleasure in general but even from aesthetic pleasure. It must have the stab, the pang, the inconsolable longing.”’ (Wikipedia).

‘Stab’, ‘pang’ and ‘inconsolable’ are words that remind us of passion and we quickly see the inextricable link between Passion and Resurrection. Your son, Simeon tells Mary, ‘is destined for the fall and rise of many … and a sword will pierce your own soul’ (Luke 2:34).

Today is Zimbabwe Independence Day. It is 41 years since we celebrated the event in Rufaro Stadium at midnight on 17 April 1980. And yet, within the first hour of freedom people, pushed their way out to the exits threatening the lives of others. It tarnished the first moments of independence and the tarnishing has continued ever since. More than 40 years later, most people in the country are still waiting to enter the promised land. Perhaps the very mention of 40 recalls that first journey to the land of ‘milk and honey’ because the Israelites’ problems were only beginning once they did arrive.

The bedrock of every human endeavour is the same for us as it was for Jesus: ‘He opened their minds to understand … that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise form the dead.’ They seemed to have got the point because the Acts of the Apostles is full of their own sufferings – and joys. ‘Can anything,’ Paul asks, ‘separate us from the love of Christ – can hardship or distress or persecution …?’ (Rom 8:35). Our freedom may be tarnished by the painful events of the past 40 years but we were starry-eyed if we thought Independence would be a ‘bed of roses’. Our faith calls us to continue the struggle in the sure hope that little by little, as people find their voice and their courage, the blessings of being a free human being, ‘fully alive’, will be ours.

18 April 2021    Independence and Easter Sunday 3B   Acts 3:13-19    1 Jn 2:1-5      Lk 24:35-48