I set the LORD always before me,
on my right hand, that I not stumble.
So my heart rejoices and my pulse beats with joy,
my whole body abides secure.
For You will not forsake my life to Sheol,
You won’t let Your faithful one see the Pit.
Make me know the path of life.
Joys overflow in Your presence,
delights in Your right hand forever.
Psalm 16, trans. Robert Alter
In his commentary on today’s gospel passage from Matthew, Daniel Harrington, S.J. writes:
According to Christian faith Jesus has anticipated the eschatological resurrection that will accompany God’s kingdom in its fullness. Or, to put it another way, the resurrection of Jesus is a sign that God’s kingdom has already broken into human history.
The Gospel of Matthew, p. 412
It is hardly news-breaking to say that throughout the eastern United States the past winter has been extraordinarily long and severe. Right up to recent days, the usually obvious signs of spring have been missing, even here in the mid-Atlantic. A certain dullness of perception seemed to have set in, as the chill and grayness of March continued into early April, with what seemed like no sign of the usual first blossoms and colors of spring. But on this past Easter weekend, it seemed as if, all of a sudden, the grass became green, the first leaves began to unfold, and the earliest daffodils came to life. In truth, of course, this could not have happened as suddenly as it seemed, and the “signs” of new life had, unrecognizably, been slowly manifesting for some time, even as a certain “hopelessness” about spring’s arrival pervaded our consciousness.
Not just on the Feast of Easter but always we live with in the reality “that God’s kingdom has already broken into human history.” But as the Psalmist, or as the disciples who fearfully, at first, encounter the empty tomb, we don’t always “rest secure” in that truth. To know “the path of life” and the overflow of joy in God’s presence requires of us that we orient our lives in every aspect to that path and that presence. As the seemingly endless winter wore us down, so too do the demands, the anxieties, the very tedium of daily life cloud our vision, our aspiration, and our desire to the extent that the path of life seems to disappear from view.
To recognize the Kingdom of God in our own and our world’s history requires of us that we continue to practice the turn of our hearts toward God that was the summons of our Lenten practice, that, before all else, we “set the Lord always before” us. It requires a training of the eye, the mind, and the heart to see the life, joy, and delight in our lives and in the world, even when they are obscured by the “harshness of reality.” St. Francis of Assisi was able to recognize that embedded in hatred there was the seed of love, in injury pardon, in doubt faith, in despair hope, in darkness light, and in sadness joy. He prayed that God would make him an instrument of the light that was hidden in those moments of darkness. As we proclaim in words that “Christ is Risen,” may we cultivate the seeds of the Kingdom which are embedded in all those moments of our day which at first glance seem barren and lifeless.
God also knows all things and is able to do everything God wishes, both in heaven and on earth. God is in us as light and truth and reveals himself in the topmost part of our created being, raising our memory to a state of purity, our spirit to a state of divine freedom, and our understanding to a state of imageless bareness. He enlightens us with his eternal wisdom and teaches us to see and contemplate his fathomless riches. There there is life without labor, at the fountainhead of all grace; there there is the taste and experience of eternal blessedness, fully satisfied, with no tinge of anything unpleasant. Let us then transcend all that is passing with time; then we will be able to rejoice in love, for eternal life has been prepared for us.
Jan van Ruusbroec, A Mirror of Eternal Blessedness, III, A