Today’s find: Proper channels

Ever notice how some people just won’t listen?

There’s this guy I know, for instance: Three times in the past several weeks, we’ve chatted on the phone about the best way to drum up interest in a volunteer activity that we both hold dear.

Three times, I’ve offered him the benefit of my wisdom and experience – having been involved in the activity for several years longer than my friend, the newbie. And three times, he’s basically ignored my advice…in order to put into motion a plan that I suspect is doomed to failure.

Annoying? You’d better believe it. (If you like, I can show you the minor wounds I’ve incurred of late while biting my tongue…)

But this morning, I also found myself feeling curiously grateful for his propensity to color outside the lines. It started when I heard the gospel proclaimed for Easter Saturday’s daily Mass. Today’s account of the resurrection came from Mark, and it describes a Risen Lord who himself did not always follow proper channels:

When Jesus had risen, early on the first day of the week,
he appeared first to Mary Magdalene,
out of whom he had driven seven demons.
She went and told his companions who were mourning and weeping.
When they heard that he was alive
and had been seen by her, they did not believe.

After this he appeared in another form
to two of them walking along on their way to the country.
They returned and told the others;
but they did not believe them either.

Not a very flattering portrayal of the Apostles, if you think about it: Two times on that first Easter day, they heard that Jesus was alive…but ‘they did not believe.’ And part of me wonders whether it was because they were miffed at not having been the first to know. Chain of command, and all that.

I can certainly see my own weakness reflected in their disbelief. I know how easily I can be knocked off course whenever my sense of propriety and order is offended. (Ever notice how some people just won’t listen?) And yet, there’s something about the Easter event that requires me – requires us – to set aside our human wisdom and experience.

At the theologian Walter Brueggemann has written,

Easter is not a “spiritual” event, but a surging of power that touches all of life. The Easter question for us is not whether you can get your mind around the resurrection, because you cannot. Rather, the question is whether you can permit in your horizon new healing power, new surging possibility, new gestures to the lame, new ways of power in an armed, fearful world, new risk, new life, leaping, dancing, singing, praising the power beyond all our controlled powers.

The Risen One is indeed a ‘power beyond all our controlled powers,’ it seems to me.

And this is an Easter gift I might well have missed…if my friend (and the evangelist Mark) hadn’t shown me that sometimes it’s important to fix our gaze outside the proper channels.


Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.


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