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For Your Weekend: Going on the Offensive with Resurrected Hope

Lisa Brenninkmeyer

Dig Deeper into Easter Sunday’s Gospel: Read John 20:1–9

In one of her essays on women, Saint Edith Stein wrote, “Women comprehend not merely with the intellect but also with the heart.”[1] I especially feel the truth of this statement with my children as I’ve studied their unique mannerisms and reactions. I recently noticed something one of my kids says that sounds like a throwaway comment but is connected to unrest deeper down. 

“What is happening?!” he’ll say. 

No one answers his rhetorical question, but I know that he has just encountered something that he feels should not be. There’s something he doesn’t understand. I pay attention when he says this because it reveals something in his heart that is usually hidden. 

This is the phrase that comes to my mind when I think of Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John in our gospel reading this Easter. As they encounter the empty tomb in John 20:1–9, all three see the burial clothes, but no body. I can imagine them looking at each other, saying, “What is happening?!” “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (John 20:9). This didn’t make sense. Where was Jesus?

I love that our gospel passage for Sunday stops right there, inviting us to pause and sit in this moment of confusion. Clarity is coming—resurrected Jesus will bring this in spades when He appears. But for now, Mary Magdalene is distressed and afraid someone has stolen His body. John 20:8 reveals that John believes, but none of them totally connect the dots. They have all just witnessed evidence of a miracle, but they don’t realize it. Mary Magdalene stays and cries, but Peter and John just go home. “What is happening?” they ask themselves. 

Have you ever asked this question? I certainly have. So much of life is spent in the space between hard circumstances and the understanding of why something has happened. The stretch of time where we seem to be marinating in confusion can be the breeding ground for despair. But it can just as easily be the birthplace of resurrected hope. Which seed we plant in our hearts is up to us.

There are times in life when it seems like baffling and difficult events are just raining down on us. Before we recover from one thing, something else happens. We don’t understand why. We feel exposed and vulnerable. What are we to do? How can we choose to plant resurrected hope in our hearts in times like this?

I’ll tell you what has worked for me and what I am inviting you to do this Easter season. I go on the offensive. Why? Because “we are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!”[2] During Lent, we fasted from the Alleluia—our song of praise and victory. But Easter is here. It’s time to rise up and move forward. Refusing to play victim to the enemy’s desire to keep us distracted and discouraged, let’s strap on our armor. The first thing to grab is described in Ephesians 6:16 as the shield of faith that quenches the flaming darts of the evil one. 

It’s helpful to get a visual of how a Roman soldier used his shield at that time. The shield was large—two feet by four feet—and could cover the soldier’s entire body when he crouched down. If the enemy were sending flaming arrows up and over the soldiers, the soldiers would cover themselves with their shields and move forward. They did not get distracted by the flaming arrows. They kept their focus on the need to advance.  

This is what faith is meant to do for us. Even in times of confusion. Especially when the enemy’s arrows are raining down on us. But what do I mean by faith? Faith is one of the most overused words by Christians but may be one of the things we are slowest to put into action. Faith is different from belief. It is action-based and means that we are stepping out and doing something, not just thinking nice spiritual thoughts. Faith is when you can’t see how things are going to turn out, but you obey God anyway. This action plants a seed of hope. The alternative is rationalizing ourselves out of obedience because of our confusing and hard circumstances. This leads to distraction and discouragement.

So even though you are confused, even though you are under attack, you pray, “God, what are you asking me to do?” Is He asking you to forgive? To give up a bad habit? To take a risk and love sacrificially? To step out of your comfort zone? To speak up and fight injustice? 

Taking up the shield of faith means stepping forward and doing what it is that God has asked. When you take this step, the shield of faith goes up above you and repels those flaming arrows. It doesn’t make them disappear, but it protects you from what the enemy was trying to accomplish when he fired them at you. He wants you distracted and discouraged—so busy focusing on the flaming arrows that you can’t move forward.

I don’t know what is happening in your life. I can hardly make sense of what is happening in mine. Never mind. We don’t have to understand to move forward. Let’s take up the shield of faith and go on the offensive. Victory is ours because Jesus is risen. We advance against a defeated foe. Alleluia!

With you on the journey,

Food for thought or journaling…

Where is God asking you to move forward in obedience? If you are hesitating, what is holding you back?

Dear Lord, even when I’m confused, even when difficulties are raining down on me, You still ask me to step out in faith. Give me the courage to move forward in obedience even when I’m afraid. May I take up the shield of faith by my actions, not just my words. Amen.

[1] Edith Stein, Essays on Woman: The Collected Works of Edith Stein (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1996), 244.
[2] Saint John Paul II, “Apostolic Journey To The Far East And Oceania,” Libreria Editrice Vaticana (30 November 1986): https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/angelus/1986/documents/hf_jp-ii_ang_19861130.html


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