Tag Archives: resurrection

Resurrection Preview: the 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time

jesus-raises-the-widow-of-nains-son-iconThere was a tradition at my grade school that, on the last day of school, students would visit the next grade up, in order to meet their teachers.

It was a preview of sorts. A mean teacher, a quiet teacher, a funny teacher: in just twenty minutes we would all get a taste of just what was in store for us after a glorious summer vacation

This Gospel – the story of the widow of Nain – is no different.

We cannot simply read this story as if it were a miracle, some type of good action: a fortuitous meeting in which Jesus, seeing a need, responds in the most extraordinary of ways. If we do, if we let this be a simply miracle, we create a God filled with caprice, a God who only intervenes in some places and for some people.

But, there is something much greater going on here: this story of resuscitation (because remember, the son would die again) is a preview of the truly momentous event in Jesus’ life, the resurrection.

It will only be two short years until another son of a widow is carried out from a city – this time Jerusalem, not from Nain. There won’t be a crowd, but there will be tears. No one will meet this widow – there won’t be mourners, nor a prophet available to great the broken and crucified body of her only son.

And yet, something will happen three days later: no one will tell his arise; no one, that is, other than the voice of his Heavenly Father who will bid him to rise.

This is, in fact, the challenge of this morning’s Gospel – to leave this place with the knowledge that Christ bids each one of us to rise – and to rise in a way more deeply felt that a simple chance encounter. Christ, indeed, does not meet us with a one-time fix. Those are only a preview to what is really coming.

The Power to Hope

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A few days ago, I had the privilege of hearing a survivor of the Holocaust speak. Mrs. Marsha Tishler was only three weeks old when her parents, who were Jewish, went into hiding to avoid being sent to a concentration camp. In order to save her life, Mrs. Tishler’s parents placed her on a doorstep of a farmhouse one night with a note imploring the owners to take care of their baby girl. The homeowners called a town elder, whose sister and brother-in-law agreed to raise the child, even though the elder had recognized her and knew that her family was Jewish. The Christian couple raised Mrs. Tishler for two and a half years until her parents were able to come out of hiding.

What struck me about listening to Mrs. Tishler talk was that even though she was born into a world of hate, the way she portrayed her story was full of love, hope, and beauty. You would think that someone born into the type of society that Mrs. Tishler was born into would have every right to be bitter and angry. Yet, Mrs. Tishler took the hate that the world threatened to drown her with and she found something to cling to that helped her to stay afloat—she found hope. From just a little glimmer of hope, she was able to bring forth the beauty of love and compassion to counteract the ugliness of hatred. The act of kindness by the couple who took Mrs. Tishler into their home gave her the hope that allowed her to transform hate into love.

This transformation reminds us of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus takes the hatred of all those around him and responds with love and sacrifice. In doing so, he transforms the ugliness of the crucifixion into a beautiful act of love. The crucifixion and resurrection, which began as an act of betrayal, becomes the most powerful symbol of hope in our faith. Like Jesus, we are challenged to respond to bitterness with compassion. Jesus tells his followers quite plainly that the world will hate them. The life we are called to live is countercultural, and it is likely that we will experience some resistance. We are called to respond to this hate with love.

I think this is what Jesus means when he instructs us to turn the other cheek when we are struck. It’s not that we are weak for not fighting back—instead, we must have the strength to transform the hatred we are faced with into love. This strength comes from the power of hope. Just as Mrs. Tishler found hope and clung to it, we must find hope in the harshest of circumstances, and allow that hope to empower us to love. Mrs. Tishler was freer than her oppressors because hope gave her the freedom to love, while her oppressors were trapped in the confines of their own hatred. We are called to be signs of hope that will free one another.

The Most Jarring of All Facts: Resurrexit Sicut Dixit

1025- Anastasis Loukas, Phocis

 And he saw and believed.

People of God: see and believe!

We have seen the betrayal of Holy Thursday, known the despair of Good Friday, and felt the loneliness of the quiet tomb on Holy Saturday. During this past week, we remember the betrayal, despair and then eerie quiet that surrounded Marathon Monday in this city just a year ago.

But now, on this Easter Sunday, in this very place, we may see and believe that tomb is empty – empty not because someone has moved the body – but rather empty because the Lord is risen!

Easter Sunday doesn’t wipe away the death of Jesus: it doesn’t wipe away the pain and suffering that we have felt in our own lives either – it doesn’t bring back lives lost – but it does show us all that even in the darkest shadows of death, the light of Christ summons us back to a world that isn’t perfect, but still filled with the loving embrace of God’s love. This love is found in the care of our family, friends, neighbors, and please God, our Church too.

Easter – the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God – transforms Jesus’ existence. He lives, no more to die. And so too it is with us: Easter doesn’t guarantee us happiness; but it does promise us salvation.

The Good News of Easter is that the promise of salvation isn’t pushed off into some distant time: no, our salvation is the experience of God among us right now. It’s in the form of the Eucharist that we will share in just a few minutes; it’s in the form of forgiveness, compassion, and mercy. It’s in the form of each other – you and me – when we take others down off their crosses so that they can rise again.

The Easter event is not something that just happened once, as if it were simply dot on the map history. The reason we celebrate Easter is not because of one event in history: we gather here to celebrate Easter because the Spirit of the Risen Christ lives in each one of us in our hearts, minds, and our actions too. This Spirit resides in each one of us because someone, at some point in our lives, loved us enough to bring us to be baptized, so that we might become part of the Body of Christ.

As the sun rises this morning, we recall that there are days in our lives that are filled with the light of life, and yet, at the same time, there are days filled with darkness. Our lives are lived between light and darkness: sometimes it is our own fault, sometimes we’re innocent by-standers, and still other times we don’t even know what has happened – we’re just left to pick up the pieces of our lives.

But – Easter stands out as God’s great yes to all of us – to all humanity. The sun fades each day, but the light of Christ does not: the light of the Son – the Son of God – shines on each of us precisely because Jesus, God’s Son, has risen from the dead.

Today, by coming here, we have taken the same journey of Mary Magdalene: hoping against hope that the events of Good Friday could be reversed. We have taken the same journey as Peter, running toward the tomb, not daring to hope that God could be as good as to raise Jesus from the dead.

Brothers and sisters: the question asked of us today now that we are here in the same place as Mary and Peter is what are we to do? What are the things that we’ve buried in the tombs: is it shame, anger, grudges, lack of mercy, or refusing compassion? What are those things that we have sitting in the tombs of our lives, perhaps out of sight, but not out of mind, thinking that they aren’t weighing us down? We all have them: maybe we cannot bring ourselves to say I’m sorry; or perhaps we cannot say, “I forgive you.” Maybe we’ve let our relationship with a friend, a sibling or a spouse go cold – perhaps even we’ve lost touch with God.

Whatever these tombs are located – the forgotten slights or the old wounds — today we remember that Mary and Simon Peter and all of us too – still go running to the tomb to find the most jarring of all facts: the tomb is empty, death has been defeated, the Lord lives no more to die: Christ is risen, Alleluia!

 

 

 

 

Leave the Tomb and Be Untied: Homily Notes for the Fifth Sunday of Lent

21378.b What is this Gospel really about?

1) It’s not about Lazarus: he would die again

2) It’s not about Martha and Mary: they wouldn’t be happy forever – they would mourn again.

3) It’s not even about those who came to believe in Jesus: they would abandon him.

This Gospel is really about Jesus: it puts him front and center as not just one who speaks powerful words – but the One who acts in power, confronting the darkness moments of our human existence.  Jesus confronts the death of his friend Lazarus by two powerful words:

Lazarus, come out!

And

Untie him and let him go.

 Both of these have something to do with our lives. First of all: Come out!  Because we are all baptized, Jesus knows our names and says to us the same thing: come out! Leave the places where we’re more dead than alive – we know, I think, exactly what these are – we’re asked to consider where are the places where we’ve given up – where we’re “dead.” Jesus beckons us to leave them today – to leave the tombs of our former lives. At the same time, this project of conversion isn’t our own – no, God enters into our lives in the here and now and walks with us as we “come out.”  We hear: “untie him and let him go.”  That is the true beauty of our Christian lives – God entering in and at once calling us out, but also being there with us to help us! Yet all this isn’t about us: because there are many who we continue to tie up: we may ask ourselves, when do jokes go too far – and what I mean by that, where are those places where we’re going too far – where are the places in which we’re still settling, still cutting corners? These are the exact places where we need to have the courage to ask Jesus to enter into in our lives – and we’re in a perfect place to ask such a question in this church. Jesus has powerful words that are directed at us: Come out and be untied – and then, untie others! In these next few weeks, we ought identify a place where we’re tied and enter into fullness life: reconciliation, repentance, and reparation – in the remaining two weeks before Easter, let us be come out of our tombs and be untied – and let us do it in the power of the One who on that same Easter was untied to die no more!

Patristic Voices: Augustine and the Resurrection of the Female Body

_augustine_hippoThe passage from St. Anselm that we posted last week was not only a beautiful way to start our reflection on early church texts, it also contains many of the most characteristic elements of patristic writing.  The first element deals with the role of experience.  We moderns often think of ourselves as the generation that takes experience seriously; our generation’s insight is making human experience a key part of our sources, methods, and verifications of our thoughts and reflections.  Hopefully it will become evident as time goes on that the patristic authors did this too, in their own way.  In this case, Anselm’s prayer begins with himself and his own experience of life.  Anselm notes his own smallness, the busyness of his life and the “tumult,” “weight,” and “wearisome”–ness that goes along with it.  It may not be a deep or lengthy analysis of the human condition, but all of us have probably used these words to describe our own situations at some point.  The early church writers were as human, as aware of their surroundings, and as alive as we are.  They worked from, with, and back into the world they lived in.  This world is similar and different from ours and leads them to similar and different conclusions, but experience is nonetheless an important part of their thought process.

Second, Anselm’s prayer/reflection is soaked in the Scripture.  The early church authors were – to put a modern parlance on it – scripture junkies.  Shaming modern Catholics, patristic authors knew their Bible very well.  Verses from the scripture flow in and out of their writings effortlessly and meaningfully.  Not only do the passages they use enforce the meaning of what they are trying to say, but what they say also puts a new meaning on the passage they use – intertextuality.

Take Anselm’s use of Psalm 27.  If we take Anselm’s prayer at face value we have a prayer that seems, in the end, a little hopeless.  We don’t see God, don’t know God, don’t know how to find God, and thus fail in our fundamental purpose as humans.  But, if we look at Psalm 27 and consider that Anselm precedes all of this unknowing with it, then we get a very different image.  Psalm 27 is a psalm of trust: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?  The LORD is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?” (27:1).  So great is the psalmist’s trust in God that they can say, “Even if my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will take me in” (27:10).  Finally, Anselm implies the words of the psalmist to restore the hope he seems to have lost at the end of the prayer and to continue his pursuit of finding God, “I believe I shall see the LORD’s goodness in the land of the living” (27:13).

The use of experience and the use of scripture in the early church texts will be important to pay attention to as we go forward.  It will be especially important as we consider our next author, St. Augustine.  Anselm lived between 1033 and 1109, was born in Italy, was a Benedictine monk, and one of the first voices in the scholastic movement but is popularly known for being an Archbishop of Canterbury.  Augustine lived between 354 and 430, was born near Carthage in North Africa, and after a youth of debauchery, heresy, and spiritual unrest, became a bishop and one of the most important theologians of his time – actually of all of the history of western civilization after him.  Augustine’s influence is seen even in Anselm’s prayer we cited last week which is a close reiteration of the prayer Augustine uses to start his Confessions.

Besides the Confessions, Augustine’s book, the City of God, is one of his most popular and most important.  It is a long collection covering all kinds of topics.  It was a later work of Augustine’s and he does not hold back proving how smart he is by showing how much he can talk about.  One topic he discusses briefly (relatively briefly) and yet might still be odd for the modern reader to find discussed at all is “The Resurrection of Women’s Bodies.”  To set the context a little, Augustine is here addressing and correcting a belief among some theologians that the bodies of women will not be resurrected at the eschaton as female bodies but that all bodies will rise as male bodies.  The full discussion can be found in Book 22, Chapter 17.  I will here quote only some of the more thought provoking passages and look forward to your comments and further discussion of this passage next week.

“The more sensible view, it seems to me, is the one held by those who do not doubt that both sexes will rise again…  And female sex is not a fault but rather a matter of nature, and it will then be exempt from intercourse and childbirth.  The female organs will still be present.  Now, however, they will be accommodated not to their former use but to a new beauty…  Instead, they will evoke praise for the wisdom and compassion of God, who both created what was not and freed what he created…  The woman, therefore, is just as much God’s creation as is the man.  But, by her being made from the man, human unity was commended to us; and by her being made in this way, as I said, Christ and the Church were prefigured.  Thus the one who established the two sexes will restore them both.”