A Message from President Aceves

Dear Colleagues, 

The passage through Holy Week takes on special meaning and urgency for me in these days of global uncertainty, disruption, and war. In times that can feel isolating, and void of hope, the mystery of Easter calls us together in community and remembrance. We dare to imagine, to see with new eyes, what is possible for God and for us on the other side of love and solidarity and sacrifice. I asked Fr. Burke to reflect on the mystery of Easter. Here is what he shared.

Easter Sunday: Encountering Resurrection Faith 

For those blessed with the ability to combine imagination with critical reason, the credibility of the Christian story turns on the resurrection of Jesus which we celebrate at Easter. Interestingly, this crucial “moment” in the Christian story is nowhere described in the New Testament. We have stories of the disciples encountering an open tomb, and other accounts of various appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples, but no attempt to visualize the event of the resurrection.

Resurrection is known only by virtue of its effects, both in the case of the first disciples and for twenty-first century believers. We see this elaborated in a remarkable poem by Denise Levertov entitled, “St. Thomas Didymus.” Named for the apostle Thomas who is called “the twin” by the Gospel writers, and “doubting Thomas” by popular piety, the poem explores the experiences at the core of resurrection faith with the thoughtfulness and imaginative vitality of an Ignatian contemplation.

Writing in the first person, Levertov recalls the man from an earlier Gospel story who, when confronted with whether he had faith, had pleaded with Jesus: “I do believe, help my unbelief!” In her poem, Thomas muses: “The twin of my birth / was not so close / as that man I heard / say what my heart / sighed with each beat.” Later in the poem, pondering the post-resurrection appearance where Jesus invites the unbelieving Thomas to touch the nail-holes with his fingers and put his hand into Jesus’ pierced side, Levertov imagines him making this striking confession: “what I felt was not / scalding pain, shame for my / obstinate need, / but light, light streaming / into me, over me, filling the room / as if I had lived till then / in a cold cave…”

A philosopher, recalling Plato, will appreciate this allusion, one that touches on the very nature of reality and our knowledge of it. Even more telling is the distinction made by the German theologian, Johann Baptist Metz, when he asks: “Do we believe in God? or do we believe in our beliefs in God and, in so doing, perhaps really believe only in ourselves or in what we would like to think about ourselves?”

Resurrection faith must be nourished by our own critically appropriated religious experiences. St. Ignatius knew this. His process of the “Spiritual Exercises” aims to elicit genuine religious experiences while nourishing our critical reception of those experiences. This helps explain the Easter faith of critical believers. We do not put our faith in the doctrine of the resurrection but in the God of the resurrection in whom “we live and move and have our being.”

Like “light streaming / into me, over me, filling the room,” resurrection is not a “thing” we see, imprinted on the brain as in a photographic record, so much as the light through which we see and sense God’s love enfolding us in “all things,” even in the passage through death.

At the end of the poem, Thomas reflects on his experience of Jesus alive and says, “I witnessed/ all things quicken to color, to form, / my question/ not answered but given/ its part/ in a vast unfolding design lit/ by a risen sun.” As a twenty-first century person, mustering all my critical integrity while grasped by resurrection faith, I say, “Amen.”

Many thanks, Fr. Burke. You encourage us to engage intellectually and spiritually with the central mystery of the Christian faith. Let us find inspiration to live with humility, and love in our hearts.


Salvador D. Aceves, Ed.D.