It’s a funny thing about time.
As important as it is to us, it just keeps marching on, oblivious to the events that unfold under its gaze. Nothing that happens on earth can stop the hours from ticking by. Nothing halts the seasons from their seemingly endless cycle. One springtime is much like another. This summer may be a bit hotter or cooler than last summer, but nothing dramatic ever seems to change.
Nothing New? While the steady cycle of the seasons can give a sense of security and stability to our lives, it can also dampen our sense of expectancy regarding the seasons of the Church year. Just as the spring comes and goes each year, so too does the Easter season. Year after year, we hear the good news that Christ is risen from the dead, and in the back of our minds lurks the thought that it won’t be too long before we begin another Lenten fast. So, along with the writer of Ecclesiastes, we may begin to wonder whether there is anything new under the sun (1:9).
But in fact there is something new under the sun. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has brought the kingdom of God down to earth. And that kingdom is constantly unfolding, advancing, and growing. We are not caught in an endless cycle of seasons. Rather, we are all headed toward a great and glorious destiny. And every Easter season holds the promise of a greater and deeper experience of God, making us more and more like Christ.
This Easter season, let’s take a closer look at some of the promises that we can experience right here and now as we move toward our destination. Let’s look at some of the miracles that Jesus performed when he walked the earth, knowing that they didn’t happen just for the people back then. Each and every wonder that Jesus performed was also meant for us. Each one is a sign of the powerful ways we can be transformed today, and tomorrow, and every day until all the seasons end and we are fully glorified in the kingdom of God.
The Kingdom Is Here. Let’s begin by looking at someone in the Bible who was tempted to think that nothing new would ever come about. Imprisoned by Herod for his preaching, John the Baptist began to question his calling and, even worse, whether Jesus really was the Messiah. So he sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus that very question. But notice how Jesus responded. Not with a theological discourse, and not with the promise of a future heavenly redemption. Instead, he pointed to what he was doing right there and then: forgiving sins; casting out demons; healing the lame, the blind, and the deaf (Matthew 11:2-6). In short, Jesus revealed who he was by what he did just as much as by what he said.
From the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus made it clear that he had come to change the world. Look for example, at the very first words he speaks in Mark’s Gospel: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near” (1:15). And from that point on, he traveled all of Israel teaching the people and performing miraculous signs and wonders. Evidently, this “kingdom of God” was not confined to a specific place like Nazareth, Bethlehem, or even Jerusalem. Rather, it was present wherever Jesus was loved and welcomed. And wherever Jesus was loved and welcomed, he acted powerfully.
The Gospels describe Jesus’ mighty acts in various ways: as “signs,” “wonders,” “powerful deeds,” and “mighty works.” These are, interestingly, the same words that Peter used to describe Jesus at the first Pentecost: “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you” (Acts 2:22). A few years later, St. Paul echoed this very same thought when he told the Corinthians: “The kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power” (1 Corinthians 4:20). And in every generation since then, this statement has been proved true. The mighty works of Jesus are meant for all people and for all time!
Words and Deeds. Jesus was not merely a gifted speaker who taught profound spiritual truths. But at the same time, neither was he simply a wonder-worker who left people amazed yet bewildered. Jesus’ words and deeds worked together to reveal his glory and his love. Whenever he taught, he also healed. Whenever he preached, he also transformed. Whenever he confronted sin, he also forgave. In all things, the truth of his words was revealed in the power of his works, just as his works verified and validated his words.
The Old Testament promised that God’s word never goes back to him empty, and Jesus’ ministry proves that promise to be true—today as well as during his time on earth. We can hold fast to this promise every time we read Scripture—and even more so, every time we gather at Mass to hear the word of God proclaimed. For those who have ears to hear and a heart to believe, every word of God can overcome darkness, change hearts, and fill people with hope and inspiration.
St. Mark tells us about one instance when Jesus was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum, when a man suffering under demonic possession interrupted him. With just a few words, Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and cast it out of the man. Seeing this impressive display of power, the people didn’t say, “What a great exorcism!” Instead, they said, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him” (1:27). Mark doesn’t tell us what Jesus’ teaching was that day. He didn’t feel it was necessary. Instead, he demonstrates Jesus’ authority by describing the deliverance of a man with an unclean spirit.
Here is the “new thing” about Jesus’ teaching. His very words had power and authority over all the ways that sin disturbs our hearts and keeps us isolated from God.
So how do we know when we have heard the word of the Lord? Not just when we gain a new intellectual understanding about the Scriptures or Christian doctrine. We know when we experience our hearts being freed from evil. We know that Jesus has pierced us when we find ourselves lifted up by the experience of God’s love for us or filled with a renewed sense of hope.
Faith Makes Us Whole. Brothers and sisters, Jesus came into this world for the express purpose of establishing the kingdom of God in our midst. His resurrection is the greatest miracle of all, the wellspring of healing and restoration in our lives.
During this Easter season, think about the sinful woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears (Luke 7:36-50), the hemorrhaging woman who touched Jesus’ garment (8:43- 48), the Samaritan leper who gave thanks for his healing (17:11-19), and the blind man of Jericho who greeted Jesus as the “Son of David” (18:35-43). To each of these people Jesus declared, “Your faith has made you well.” May we all reach out to Jesus this season and experience his transforming power!