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Follow the Risen Lord

There’s a little known marble sculpture by Michelangelo that can be seen today in Rome in the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. It’s a sculpture of the Risen Christ. The figure of Christ in this sculpture is glorious. He stands firm but not stiff. He’s young, confident and energetic—-like a boxer before a fight, or a soldier coming home from a victorious battle. The Risen Lord stands alone. The only other figure in the sculpture is his cross. He holds it in his left arm. It is small, almost puny—-much too small to have been used to crucify him. It’s just a flimsy little wooden cross. He holds it as easily as we would a bouquet of flowers. And that’s the whole point of this work of art. The life-giving power of the Risen Lord has overwhelmed the deathly power of the cross. 

That is what Easter does for us!

Only the bright light of the Resurrection gives meaning to the blood-stained darkness of the cross. If Christ had not risen from the dead, what good would his suffering have meant?

The faith that inspired Michelangelo to create his sculpture the way he did can also be a help to us as we face this difficult time. Picture this Risen Christ walking amidst all of us now. Dispelling fear, healing, showing us that that cross isn’t as threatening as it seemed on Good Friday. See the Lord wipe away the sorrow and let us follow him to something greater. Remember: Evil will never win in the end. 

In an ancient homily for Holy Saturday there is a description of Jesus going into the underworld to free Adam and Eve and all those trapped by the pain of sin. Here’s what Christ says to those lost in death in that homily: “I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise work of my hands, arise you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.”

This evening (today) we find ourselves at the empty tomb. What seems at first to be bad news becomes, miraculously, good news. The impossible has happened. We spent Lent praying at the foot of the cross, now, like Mary Magdalene, we see the glory of the Resurrection!

Each day I try to get out for a walk and some fresh air to clear my head, especially if I have been watching too much cable news with the infection and death totals running continually on the side of the screen. One day as I was looking for something to listen to on the walk, an old recording of the movie version of an even older show popped up on the screen of my phone. The show was Finian’s Rainbow. So, I thought, haven’t listened to that in a million years. And because of these strange circumstances one of the songs hit me in a way that I hadn’t expected. It was these these lyrics that made me pause a moment:

On the day I was born,

Said my father, said he,

I’ve an elegant legacy

Waiting for ye.

‘Tis a rhyme for your lips

And a song in your heart,

To sing whenever the world falls apart.


Look, look, look to the rainbow.

Follow it over the hill and stream.

Look, look, look to the rainbow.

Follow the fellow who follows a dream.

Follow the fellow, follow the fellow,

Follow the fellow who follows a dream. 

I thought, it sure seems right now that the world is falling apart. But that’s not the message for this evening (today). Here’s what the message is: Follow the fellow who follows a dream. I’ll follow the Risen Christ—-the one Michelangelo tried to capture in sculpture for us. The Christ who has overwhelmed the deathly power of the cross. 

So, as we celebrate Easter 2020 in a way that we will always remember, try not to focus on what we don’t have. Rather, focus on what has been promised us. There is an “elegant legacy waiting for you”, new life with the Risen Christ who destroys death and gives us the grace to persevere and to make it through the storm!

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