Thomas Merton is describing what could be called resurrection consciousness which is about a capacity and resilience in life to bounce back to change, and creatively transform ourselves even although we might feel defeated, and despite the battle between death and life that goes on within us all. It could be said that that is a daily struggle… It is only through the cross that this renewal takes place and this may involve disagreement and unpopularity and alienation from others, but each is called according to their own purpose and grace. Merton writes of the Christian in whom Christ is risen who ‘dares to think and act differently from the crowd. He has ideas of his own not because he is arrogant but because he has the humility to stand alone and pay attention to the purpose and the grace of God.’ This may involve standing alone with Christ who liberates us from all forms of tyranny and domination.
Perhaps the most important section of the booklet-homily is when Merton writes that we are called to share in the resurrection not because we are religious heroes, but rather because ‘we are suffering and struggling human beings.’ It is so hard for us to believe that Christ is risen; rather, as with the disciples and the women who went to the tomb after the crucifixion, we secretly believe him in practice to be dead with a massive stone blocking the way that keeps us from reaching the living Christ. This too Merton thinks is what happens to our Christian faith – for Christ is not an inert object, not a lifeless thing, not a piece of property, not a super religious heirloom. Instead as Merton adds in capital letters towards the end of the homily – it looks as if her were shouting: HE IS NOT THERE, HE IS RISEN and indeed is going ahead before us.
And where is He going? Well to Galilee which is the place where the past can be recovered in such a way as to make it the foundation for a new and extended identity. Rowan Williams sees Galilee as ‘the soil on which a redeemed future may grow’.
So Galilee becomes the place of discipleship. And the path that leads from Galilee to Jerusalem is the path towards the place of suffering and death but also Jerusalem as the place of divine self-revelation. Here Merton understands that St Mark is speaking of the way of the cross so that if we are to meet with Jesus in Galilee then it is not necessarily some glorious trouble-free existence but rather a suffering discipleship, and an existence perhaps permanently characterised by human failure. But equally as the gospel implies but does not state explicitly, failure can be and is overcome because the power of forgiveness and restoration is in the end greater than human failure and its consequences. In Mark’s account Christ rises as the crucified one and Jesus can only be ‘seen’ and experienced by the way of the cross. This involves a letting go of the false self and the person we might like to be seen as so as to allow a new consciousness to emerge.
Merton says that to understand Easter and to live it we have to renounce our dread of newness and freedom. If we consent to new life and his emphasis is on the phrase if we consent to it, grace and trust are renewed from moment to moment in our lives. This Merton understood as the same mystery that is found in the Mass each time we participate when, ‘we die with Christ, we rise with Him and receive from him the Spirit of Promise who transforms us and unites us to the Father in and through the Son.’