What does resurrection look like?
“…as our creedal faith teaches, Jesus Christ is risen, and we are baptized into him, and therefore our rising, our new life, is already underway.”
Scripture is replete with themes of death and life, of love and loss, of coming to grips with the fact that we are part of a larger story, a wider universe, of worlds still unknown to us. Jesus, whose life and death and new transformed life we remember at the Eucharist, but especially and in depth during Holy Week and Easter, was the master teacher of this reality. He was not an abstract didactic but one who used the concreteness of nature to lead us into the mysteries of life and death.
Jesus told his listeners to look, really look, at the flowers in the fields, to feast on their beauty—and to celebrate life. He taught that life flows from death. A sparrow falls to earth, and God notices. A seed is buried in the earth, and dies, so that a plant may grow strong to nourish life. And, if weeds and wheat grow together, he told us, don’t worry about it.
Nothing is exempt from death
Jesus used the natural world as his syllabus. What Jesus knew in every fiber of his being is that life emerges from suffering, from the little deaths and the final transformative death. He showed in his own person that everything alive, from carbon particles to human life, will die. Nothing—no one—is exempt from death, not even Jesus.
Saint Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, wrote about our resurrection in direct and challenging terms: “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.” He continues, “God gives…each kind of seed its own body. Not all flesh is alike, but there is one flesh for human beings, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish” (1 Corinthians 15:36-39). He includes the moon’s splendor, the sun’s light and so on. All are caught up in the wonder of newness, in the dynamism of transformed life. How does this happen? Science aside for the moment, it happens because, as our creedal faith teaches, Jesus Christ is risen, and we are baptized into him, and therefore our rising, our new life, is already underway.
What does this new life look like?
Resurrection looks like a group of people huddled together in a seaside cottage during a fierce hurricane. Whimpering children demand to be held. The adults try to remain calm and focused, doing normal, everyday things so that the children will not become scared or anxious, so that all seems “ordinary.” The adults prepare a simple meal of sandwiches and fruit and encourage the children to eat a bit, in an effort to distract them from the raging weather.
In an adjacent small bedroom, someone softly leads a rosary while others respond. In a larger “community room” where sandwiches have been set out for easy grabbing, someone sings and encourages others to join in. Before long, in this atmosphere of shared food, song and prayer, one witnesses hope and trust replacing paralyzing fear. Outside in the storm, an older woman throws a miraculous medal on the rough waves and says she’s prepared to wait on God. She may not name the movement within herself as resurrection, but what she is experiencing—what all are experiencing—is life rising up in the face of peril.
Resurrection also looks like the face of a Bosnian woman hanging laundry. In a newspaper photo that I carried for a long time, the Bosnian woman stands between a tree and a pole, the only vertical objects (besides her) in a barren field leveled by war. The stark beauty of that scene gives flesh to our proclamation: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” Life goes on, no matter what.
Resurrection also looks like my friend who now acts as the principal caregiver for her husband who has been totally disabled by a serious stroke. My friend, whose days once were sprinkled with laughter and witty conversation, is exhausted from two years in her new role as caregiver. Each time she prepares the soft, mild food her husband can digest or she responds to his middle-of-the-night needs or she struggles to get him in and out of their car for therapy visits, she—and he—is on the resurrection trajectory. That’s my language, not hers. Her language is that of simple love and faithfulness, a language mindful of the time the couple shared evenings at the theater and cooked dinner together. Now the two experience a different kind of sharing, the sharing of diminishment, or what Teilhard de Chardin calls “the hollowing” of self to make room for God.
Love is strong as death
The communities facing natural disasters, the Bosnian woman and other survivors of war, and my friend and her husband are all faces of suffering, of dying and of transformed life. Paul tells the Corinthians (and us) that after this perishable nature has put on imperishability, we will be able to say, “Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). The truth is that we can say these words every time we choose to live in love: “…love is strong as death” (Song of Songs 8:6).
What does resurrection look like to you? When have you experienced love that is strong as death? Share your thoughts by clicking on Contact Us
Monday, March, 30, 2009