Tag Archives: Resurrection

Resurrection in a Garden

Icon of the Anastasis (Resurrection)

24th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday (Year II)

1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-49

The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

”For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.”1

“For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.”2

“The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.”3

These pointers beyond our earthly existence to our deified destiny were lifted from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (460). The spiritual DNA of Adam and the cosmos finds its origin in the eternally begotten Son of God. Christ, transcendent and “prior” to creation, is the archetype of humankind. The blueprint of humanity, untouched by time, exists in the heart of the Trinity.

Brothers and sisters: Someone may say, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come back? ”You fool! What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.

Fading flowers, seed production, winter dormancy, and springtime renewal point beyond themselves to the ultimate resurrection of Adam and the cosmos. 

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one. So, too, it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being,” the last Adam a life-giving spirit. But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven. As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly, and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.

Through stillness and silence in the midst of our activities, may we allow the Holy Spirit to plant us in the soil of Paradise so that we may germinate and grow in the Son to the Father. 

-GMC

1 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939.
2 St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B.
3 St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57, 1-4.

The Death of Death

Mary Magdalene announcing the resurrection to the apostles (Illuminated manuscript from St. Albans Psalter, St. Godehard’s Church, Hildesheim)

Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

John 20:1-2, 11-18

Nothing haunts the human consciousness more than death. The universal history of tomb building and funerary rites, symbols and myths that developed around the phenomenon of death bear witness to its mystery and the fear of the unknown that have burdened the human race for millennia.

Given the universal agreement on the finality of death, the religious authorities took unusual measures to ensure that Jesus was dead on arrival at the tomb. The evidence of the flow of blood and water from his pierced side on the Cross should have been enough. But driven by an unconscious fear, the chief priests and Pharisees had the tomb officially sealed by Pilate, who also ensured no hope of escape by the dead man by setting guards at the entrance round the clock (Matthew 27:62-66).

Something as deadly serious as death was made deadlier still by the official commotion and conspiratorial discussions of the religious establishment. Wasn’t death an absolute and irrefutable fact? Why all this fear and fuss over one man’s claim that he will rise from the dead? If death was absolute, the man could only be a lunatic anyway. 

The actions of the authorities could only be classified as irrational given the facts and circumstances of the case. For they were treating a lunatic claim as if it could be true. Even if the disciples were to fraudulently claim their master’s resurrection (though he be actually dead), the authorities treated the matter as if it had believability (unlike a child’s belief in the Easter bunny, which threatens no one). 

The claim of the Christ was not dismissed as outright lunacy, but as containing a seed of possibility. This in itself was remarkable, for it exposed a glimmer of light within human consciousness that could only be suppressed by extraordinary “rational” measures to stamp it out. An unconscious and supra-rational doubt about the finality of death mobilized a curiously vehement energy to permanently seal the sepulcher and put death in its place. Why the religious leaders wanted to suppress the possibility is another deep enigma. 

Against this backdrop, extraterrestrial beings popped in to lighten things up. Bleary-eyed and sorrowful after a mournful Sabbath, it didn’t even occur to Mary Magdalene to wonder why two shining youths were hanging out in an empty tomb. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” 

She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” Mary was clueless.

Then another voice echoed the youths, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” 

She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.”

Enough hide-and-seek, the “gardener” decided with a twinkle in his eye, and the risen Jesus called out to her, “Mary!”

She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.

Absolutely convinced of the finality of death (a mark of her mature rationality), Mary failed to recognize the voice the first time. Recognition and expectation go hand in hand. Nothing in her conditioned mind prepared her to expect to hear the Lord’s voice again. As soon as she heard her name, however, her heart awoke to her beloved.

Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

The freshness of life emanating from the risen Christ was overwhelming, like the fragrance of new blooms. In the moment, Mary could not have understood the full significance of Jesus’ injunction to let him go to the Father, but she faithfully reported his words to the disciples.

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he told her.

The fear, perplexity, and doubt that continued to plague the disciples up until the Ascension and Pentecost testify to the deeply entrenched fear of death that had darkened the human consciousness over the course of civilizations. Jesus’ resurrection was not an easy message to preach. Not even the evidence of sight, hearing and touch made it easy. The disciples would need the infusion of the Holy Spirit’s power and energy to go to the ends of the earth with such an out-of-this-world Gospel.

-GMC

Hope in the Resurrection

Ascent of Elijah (Northern Russian icon, ca. 1290)

11th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday

Sirach 48:1-14, Matthew 6:7-15

According to statistics, the mortality rate is 100%. Four exceptions to this rule are recorded in salvation history:

Seven generations after Adam, Scripture records that “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). 

The prophet Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind with a flaming chariot and horses (2 Kings:11).

Death could not hold the Lord Jesus Christ, who rose on the third day after his crucifixion and ascended into heaven forty days later.

Traditions East and West affirm that the Blessed Virgin Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. (The East believes she “slept” peacefully before being assumed; the West believes she did not die.)

Enoch interrupted the downward spiral after Adam’s expulsion as a ray of hope piercing the darkness. Once a pattern sets in, human consciousness begins to accept it as normal and “natural.” However, “God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living” (Wisdom 1:13). As long as there is one exception to a rule, the rule is not absolute. 

Enoch and Elijah kept alive in human consciousness the possibility of bodily resurrection, foreshadowing by their mysterious translations the resurrection of Christ and the assumption of Mary. The Sadducees, the high priestly class, had already given up hope in the resurrection, effectively nullifying the witness of Enoch in the first book of the Pentateuch which they revered. The flame of hope is so easily snuffed out in a fragile humanity grown old.

It takes the heart of a child to believe in Jesus’ promise of eternal life: “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). 

In praying the Our Father today, we may contemplate Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Saints Enoch and Elijah in whom his will was done “on earth as it is in heaven.” The curtain separating heaven and earth was torn in two on the Cross, and the transfiguring Light of the Trinity shines everywhere. May we be granted eyes to see it. 

-GMC

Whose Wife Will She Be?

King Kalakaua’s Torah and yad in display case at Temple Emanu-El, Honolulu, Hawaii.
Licensed by Wmpearl under CC0 1.0.

9th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday (Year II)

Mark 12:18-27

What is it like not to believe in a spiritual realm? If reality is confined only to the material, sensible world, the focus of one’s energy might be to preserve and perpetuate one’s existence in time as long as possible—the family name and property. 

A theoretical question was put to Jesus by the Sadducees who did not believe in an afterlife or spirits: Suppose seven brothers die in succession after marrying one woman, and the woman finally dies. “At the resurrection when they arise whose wife will she be?” The Sadducees were confident that the question would expose the absurdity of an afterlife.

Jesus said to them, “Are you not misled because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but they are like the angels in heaven.”

There is more to life than meets the eye. The unseen realm exists, Jesus said, and it far surpasses the bodily existence of this life. What exactly the angelic life will look like for humans was not spelled out, but it most certainly lies beyond marriage and family ties. 

Jesus then appealed to the written Torah (the Pentateuch), which the Sadducees accepted as most authoritative: “As for the dead being raised, have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God told him, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not God of the dead but of the living. You are greatly misled.”

The patriarchs who preceded Moses are alive, Jesus said, though again not spelling out any details of the how or where. The text was given not so much as a “proof,” as words can be interpreted in many ways, but was presented in a new angle to open the eyes of the Sadducees who had developed tunnel vision. Jesus shattered the assumption that life simply ended with death.

The odd thing is that the Sadducees believed in the God of Moses who is spirit. From their sect came most of the priests who performed the Temple sacrifices. If human existence was only confined to this earthly life, their God must have been very remote and cut off from earthly affairs. Spirit and matter did not touch. How shocking then, to meet a man who claimed to be the Son of God who will rise from the dead. 

The teaching authorities of the people who waited for centuries for the Messiah were very unprepared for a Christ come in the flesh. “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” Jesus warned (Matthew 16:6).

If the idea of an afterlife was unbearable to the elite of Jesus’ people, one only wonders what Jesus held back when he said, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now” (John 16:12).

-GMC

Reinterpreting Life Through the Cross

IMG_0500

During the Easter season, we go to Calvary to reinterpret what we saw there. Reinterpreting life is at the heart of the Easter mystery. It invites us to see life differently. Listen to the 4th century Saint Ephrem the Syrian:

Glory be to you, Lord,
You raised your cross like a bridge to span the jaws of death, that we might go from the land of death to the land of the living.
Glory be to you, Lord,
You took on a human body that every human being might live.

You are alive. Those who killed you sowed your living body in the earth as farmers sow grain, and it sprang up and brought forth an abundant harvest of human beings from the dead.

Come, brothers and sisters, let’s offer our love. Pour out our treasury of hymns and prayers before him who offered himself on the cross to enrich us all.”

Reinterpreting life through the mystery of the Cross is at the heart of the charism of my community, the Passionists. In our Mary Garden here at the monastery, Mary stands with her Son on the stump of a cedar tree. A dead tree, yet brought to life by the presence of Jesus carried in Mary’s arms.

The Cross of Jesus helps us see life in our world, a “Faithful Cross” it’s called in an ancient hymn. And it is.

I have a feeling we need to spend a lot of time reinterpreting what we’re going though now with Covid 19 through the mystery of the Cross of Jesus.

The Sign of Jonah

The three readings in our lectionary these last days from the Book of Jonah reveal a man who seems unchanged by the amazing things that happened to him. At first Jonah refuses God’s command to call the great city of Nineveh to repentance. He sees no sense to it. Then, thrown overboard by sailors, he’s swallowed up by a whale that deposits him on the beach at Nineveh. 

He finally preaches in the great city and it repents. But here at the end, Jonah’s angry. He doesn’t seem to appreciate what God has done. He’s still a very small-minded, unchanged man, it seems. 

Jesus uses the story of Jonah in the gospel as a sign of the power of the resurrection. The resurrection is God’s power at work. It’s not human power, God’s power is at work. God raises Jesus from the dead, but God also raises up people like Jonah, who don’t altogether grasp God’s plan, they’re not perfect, they’re weak even till the end. 

Pictures of the story of Jonah are common in the Christian catacombs in early Rome, where they’re found over the remains of someone deceased. The whole story is usually there, from Jonah getting thrown off the boat, to being swallowed up by the whale, to Jonah sitting in the shade of the vine.(see above)

The early Christians recognized the wisdom in the stories of the Jewish scriptures much more than we do today, so you wonder if they saw themselves and their loved ones who passed on in the Jonah story. 

Most of the people in the catacombs were ordinary Christians, not all heroic saints. They were conscious of their weak faith as citizens of this great city, but they also recognized the power of Jesus Christ who, in his resurrection, brought life even to those of little faith.

Jonah was their patron saint. 

The Resurrection according to Luke

Our gospel reading today and tomorrow is from Luke’s resurrection narrative.(Luke 24,13-35), the story of two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Like Matthew, Luke begins with the women at the tomb, but he quickly directs us beyond the tomb to a road where two downcast disciples sunk in disappointment have lost hope. Jesus appears gradually to the two disciples. Slow to see his presence, they finally recognize him in the breaking of the bread. Afterwards, they remember his words on the road that made their hearts burn within them.

In Luke’s account of the Risen Jesus, the two disciples on the road who lose hope are key to understanding the journey of the church the evangelist describes in his gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles. The church is on a journey from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. For the evangelist Rome is the ends of the earth.

But it’s not a triumphant journey the two disciples make, nor is the church’s journey triumphant. It falls and fails along the way. Luke’s narrative is a wonderful corrective to a triumphalist view of the church.

It also reminds us our personal journey of faith is not a triumphal march either. We’re like the two disciples. Yet, Jesus walks with us. He never fails to help us see.

Rembrandt. Disciples on the Way to Emmaus

Resurrection Thinking

On February 11, 2012 the Anglican Bishop N. T. Wright, a highly regarded New Testament scholar, addressed the Conference of Italian bishops on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His theme was “Christ is risen from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.” 1 Corinthians.  I found his thoughts on the  resurrection particularly interesting. The theme of the Italian bishops’ conference was “Jesus, our Contemporary.”

He begins with this challenging picture of the Risen Christ.

“ On the one hand, it is precisely because Jesus is risen from the dead that he is alive in a new, unique way; that he is able to be with us as a living presence, which we know in prayer and silence, in reading scripture and in the sacraments, and (not least) in the service of the poor.

“All those things he has promised us, and his promises do not fail. He is, in that sense, truly our contemporary. But at the same time, as our title indicates, in his resurrection Jesus stands over against us. He is different. He is the first fruits; we are the harvest that still awaits. He has gone on ahead while we wait behind.

“What is more, the meaning of his resurrection cannot be reduced to anything so comfortable as simple regarding him as ‘contemporary’ in the sense of a friend beside us, a smiling and comforting presence. Because he is raised from the dead, he is Lord of the world, sovereign over the whole cosmos, the one before whom we bow the knee, believing that in the end every creature will come to do so as well.

“It’s not enough that Jesus intervenes at the moment of our death. He is the Lord of creation.”

Wright says that our belief in Jesus as Lord of creation has been undermined by the thinking of the Enlightenment, which placed God (if God exists) beyond our world. We are the lords of creation, then. This life and all in it is in our hands to shape and control as we think best.

Our belief in the Risen Christ is influenced by this thinking, Wright believes. The only role we give to the Risen Lord is to save us from death and bring us to heaven. But he is Lord of Creation, present here and now. We must live in him today and continue his work, not in a heavy-handed way, but humbly as Jesus called for in his teaching on the beatitudes.

“This is how Jesus wants to run the world: by calling people to be peacemakers, gentle, lowly, hungry for justice. When God wants to change the world, he doesn’t send in the tanks; he sends in the meek, the pure in heart, those who weep for the world’s sorrows and ache for its wrongs. And by the time the power-brokers notice what’s going on, Jesus’ followers have set up schools and hospitals, they have fed the hungry and cared for the orphans and the widows. That’s what the early church was known for, and it’s why they turned the world upside down. In the early centuries the main thing that emperors knew about bishops was that they were always taking the side of the poor. Wouldn’t it be good if it were the same today.”

Easter Monday

Holy Sepulcher

Tomb of Jesus, Jerusalem

Readings here

“God raised him on the third day,” Peter says at Pentecost, “and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” (Acts 10, 37) In simple, concrete ways, eating and drinking with them, Jesus showed he was alive, but it took his disciples time to believe and then time to witness to their belief.

Belief and disbelief occur at his tomb. The tomb of Jesus was empty. (Acts 2,29)  Where is his body, Peter asks in today’s readings as he speaks to the people of Jerusalem?  David’s tomb was nearby and the great king’s remains lie there. Why is Jesus’ tomb  empty?

The tomb of Jesus even then, in Peter’s day, must have been a place pointed out and contrasted with the tomb of David. Later it was destroyed when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, but the tomb still seems to be known and honored as the centuries passed.

Today there’s almost a unanimous agreement by archeologists and historians that it’s found in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, recently restored, but it’s still a sign that’s questioned.

 

Matthew’s gospel, also read today, speaks of stories circulating after Jesus’ death that his body was stolen from the tomb. (Matthew 28, 8-15) For those who believe, though, it was not stolen. “God raised this Jesus, of this we are all witnesses, ” Peter says, a trustworthy witness.

 

The Bread of Life

DSC00076

All four gospels say that Jesus fed a great crowd near the Sea of Galilee by multiplying a few loaves of bread and some fish. It’s an important miracle.

John’s account (John 6), read at Mass on weekdays from the Friday of the 2nd week of Easter until Saturday of the 3rd week of Easter, indicates the miracle takes place during the feast of Passover. Like the Passover feast, the miracle and the teaching that follows occur over a number of days.

The Passover feast commemorated the Manna God sent from heaven to sustain the Jews on their journey to the promised land. Jesus claims to be the “true bread,” the “living bread” that comes down from heaven.

Jesus is a commanding presence during the miracle and the days that follow in John’s account. “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” he asks Philip as crowds come to him. He then directs the crowd to sit down, feeds them with the bread and fish, and says what should be done with the fragments left over. Unlike the other gospel accounts that give the disciples a active role in the miracle John’s account gives them a small role. Philip and the other disciples are tested during the miracle and the teaching that follows it.

As they embark on the Sea of Galilee to return to Capernaum after the miracle, a sudden storm occurs and Jesus’ rebukes the wind and the sea, the forces of nature, so that the disciples reach the other shore. He has divine power.

The crowds to whom Jesus speaks at Capernaum after the miracle are also tested as well as his disciples. They want to make him king after a plentiful meal and only look for a steady hand out instead of “the true bread come down from heaven.” Their faith is limited and imperfect after the miracle. They miss the meaning of the sign.

The disciples also are tested; some walk with him no more.

The miracle of the loaves and the fish remind us that Jesus is Lord and we are people of limited faith. We only see so far. The Risen Lord leads us to the other shore. He is the Bread of Life. “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life,” Peter says to Jesus at the end of John’s account. And so do we.