Fourth Sunday of Easter
25 April 2021
Last week during the Half Term break I went to the Isle of Wight with my family. For Italians of a certain age the Isle of wight is well known because of a popular song from the ’70 dedicated to it. One of the landmarks of the Island is the spectacular cliff called the Needles. It is called the Needles because from the distance the rocks look like needles coming out of the sea. The view is absolutely stunning! At sunset we witnessed a spectacular solar phenomenon, which I had never seen before in my life. The sunlight pierced through the clouds creating a lake of light in the middle of the ocean. It was breath-taking! For me it was a contemplative experience which I enjoyed as I sat on the ground and let myself be overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of this natural phenomenon.
It was the sunlight that made the needles and the cliff both beautiful and transfixing. It was the light piercing through the clouds and spreading an unimaginable beauty over the rocks and the sea, that seemed to me the perfect metaphor for life after the resurrection. A light which projects beauty into our lives, a beauty that otherwise would have been invisible to us.
The light of the risen Lord invites us to a new interpretation of the past events of the life of Jesus, a reinterpretation of the story of Peter and the first Christian communities, and relates to our own lives too.
I would say that, as the light par excellence, the resurrection is the key to our interpretation and reading of the gospel, the life of Jesus. After being blessed by its light our eyes and hearts are filled with its beauty, and the world doesn’t seem the same anymore. The truth is that the world hasn’t changed, but our perception, our way of seeing and living it has.
So the metaphor of the good shepherd -as Jesus refers to himself- reveals an explosion of vitality, a light that inundates and at the same time transforms our lives entirely. Jesus, the good shepherd, is a powerful image of a new way of living. Today’s Gospel is telling us that life is a gift we have received just like the people we love and meet along the way, and gives a sense of purpose to our existence. This might seem obvious, it may need some explanation. In the light of the resurrection it is our perception of the world that has been totally changed, transformed, renewed. We learn gratitude and how to engage with other people, and so we can let go of wanting to possess or dominate them.
Without doubt, gratitude is the fruit of our meeting with the risen Lord, with His light. We feel a deep sense of freedom, and also true love, in living everything as a gift -including our loved ones and friends-, and make gratitude a way of living.
Are we really happier because we got a pay raise or a promotion, or have a stellar career? Are we happier because we are well off and can afford more luxuries than other people? Or perhaps because our husbands, wives, partners fulfil our expectations? Life seems to teach us that this kind of happiness goes up and down like a roller coaster. Instead, joy and inner peace resonate more deeply with our inner lives.
It is the light of the resurrection, the meeting with the risen Lord, which awakes joy and inner peace that lies dormant in our consciousness.
Isn’t this the paradox of the Gospel? Something that we can understand looking through the lens of the resurrection! It is repeated like the leitmotiv of a symphony from the beginning to the end of the four Gospels. But we can’t hear it, perhaps because we are deafened by the noises in our minds, by the negative thoughts that afflict our lives and can give us a sense of endless sadness.
This is the light we desperately need. We are spectators of the beauty of the sunlight just as it was over the Needles in the Isle of Wight, not passive, but actively letting that light radiate in our inner selves like the sunlight that pierces the clouds in our everyday minds, to create a lake of light in our lives. It is a marvellous experience because we discover a true sense of wonder, and learn to see the extraordinary within the ordinary of our lives.