Dear Members of the McQuaid Jesuit Community:
An Amaryllis plant sits on a ledge near a window here in the Jesuit community. Every year it shoots up long green stems that produce vibrant red flowers. I am not sure to whom it originally belonged, but I have adopted it. In season, I simply water it. Each December, when the leaves have withered, I cut it down and begin waiting for the spring that hides beneath it.
The other day, as I headed off to work, I passed by the stump that patiently has been waiting for the snow to end. In my hurry, I noticed something wonderful. The once-decayed edges of the severed Amaryllis stem were greening, and a small sprout was beginning to form at its base. I carefully nudged aside the remnant layers, and discovered that somehow life was returning to this small plant settled in our community hallway.
As Rochester natives know full well, however, our beloved city has a wicked sense of humor. To be frank, early springtime in Upstate New York is possibly one of the cruelest seasons I've ever encountered. Yet, that Amaryllis plant is still growing, and nothing can stop it. And so, I've simply chosen to look at its hastening green leaves instead of the flakes of snow floating outside the window nearby. And I am encouraged by the springtime emerging within me.
Where we choose to look matters because it determines what we can see, and it makes a fundamental difference in our lives.
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. An angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said." (Matthew 28)
At the tomb, the angel encourages the women to look for Jesus among the living and not among the dead. Notice, in Matthew's account, while the two Marys begin their search at the tomb, they ultimately do not find Jesus there. Rather, as they hasten to share the angel's good news with the other disciples, they suddenly meet the risen Christ. Their orientation has turned away from the dead and because they are focused on life, they experience the Resurrection.
Like the women at the tomb, I am being invited to reflect on my choices this Easter season. Winter seems to be covering this earth a little too much these days. The tomb seems to be the predominant context (especially if I watch too much cable news). Why am I looking at the snow? Why am I standing at the tomb? Life is budding all around me, if I choose to see it. I am surrounded daily by the intellect, enthusiasm, faith, and skill of 870 young men, as well as the generosity of the adults who companion them. Just this past month, our students built a robot, spoke eloquently, debated fervently, and served passionately. They solved math problems, sang songs, tried out for teams, reflected on immigrants, searched for a lost teen with autism, and prayed for an end to gun violence. Our faculty and staff honored academic achievement, recognized unsung heroes, and celebrated athletic victories. Our donors supported our mission at a wonderful party. Our parents honored our teachers, went on final college visits, and prayed with their sons.
During this Easter season, let us make the deliberate choice to focus on the living and not on the dead. In the introduction to his Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius Loyola invites a spiritual director to “presuppose” a good intent in his or her retreatants. He states, “To assure better cooperation between the one who is giving the Exercises and the exercitant, and more beneficial results for both, it is necessary to suppose that every good Christian is more ready to put a good interpretation on another’s statement than to condemn it as false.” (SE #22)
Where is life present in your home, community, church, office, gym? Where is the goodness in your sibling, spouse, neighbor or enemy? See these things, and choose to look at them! I'll do the same.
That Amaryllis plant continues to grow and soon it will produce bright red flowers. And Christ is no longer among the dead!
Alleluia! Happy Easter!
Fr. Reiser assumed the presidency of McQuaid Jesuit July 1, 2014, becoming the school's 13th president. A native of Buffalo, Fr. Reiser attended Canisius High School and earned his bachelor of science in Accounting from Canisius College. Following his undergraduate studies, he joined the Society of Jesus in 1986. Along with teaching, Fr. Reiser has served many roles throughout his career, including director of Campus Ministry at Canisius High School, director of Vocations for the Society of Jesus in New York City, and president of St. Peter's Prep in Jersey City.