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Fr. Ron's Blog

In one of the November issues of America, there was, perhaps, the shortest poem about resurrection.  It went like this:

After the agony and humiliation of crucifixion,
would you be willing to

Give up the cold comfort of death
for the pain of rebirth and cell-splitting joy of glory?

The poem suggests that somehow and sometimes, we become comfortable in our tombs; we manage to adjust to our crucifixions.  we stay imprisoned in ourselves, in our weakness and in our sins.  the cold comfort of death.  Like the women in Matthew’s gospel, trudging through the night, thinking the future is more tombs, more death, more disappointment, more failure.  The cold comfort of death. This is the ultimate victory of death, to leave us content in our tombs, fearing the possibilities that resurrection can bring.  

Oh yes, we believe in resurrection.  we believe that Jesus died and rose to new life, and that he will bring us to that new life when this journey of ours is over.  Yes, we do.  More Catholics go to mass on Easter than on Christmas. It is a testament to our faith that there is something out there, beyond the grave.  yes, we do believe.  

But it is the power of that resurrection now, in living our daily lives, that frightens us.  Basil Pennington, the Trappist monk and spiritual writer, was once on a retreat.  An unusual part of the retreat was an individual, one-on-one session with a Zen master.  When his appointed time came, Pennington sat in a room with the master.  For the longest time, nothing was said.  The Zen master simply sat there, smiling from ear to ear, rocking happily back and forth.  Finally, he spoke.  “I like Christianity.  but I would not like Christianity without the Resurrection.  I want to see your resurrection.”

With extraordinary simplicity, he captured what it is to be a Christian.  what is it, Gail, and even, at your young ages, Destiny, Sadie, Cooper and Joey Linh, what is it Jesus asks of you when you are baptized in a few moments?  What is it, brothers and sisters who are already baptized, what is it Jesus expects of us?  You are a Christian.  you are risen with Christ. show me!

This is why we prefer the cold comfort of death.  It is our fear to allow the power of the resurrection, the God-life of the Risen Christ who created and re-created us to raise us from these tombs of our own self-centeredness.  And so, we continue to make choices that leave more pain than joy, relationships that rob us of self-respect, fears and worries about everything under the sun, our jobs, our economic security, our children and our grandchildren, fears of violence, of terrorism, of the stranger, bouts with illnesses that play havoc with our dreams, hurtful words spoken in bitterness that crush the spirits of those around us, sometimes even the ones we love the most.  

But having died with Christ, the God-life empowers us to say to these death-clothes that wrap around us, “you have no power over me any longer because Jesus Christ died and rose and I belong to him.”  Look at them all and know that because you and I have died with Christ, everything that looks and smells and acts like death in our lives is behind us.

In an ancient homily, Jesus descends into hell to rescue Adam and he says to him: “I order you, O sleeper to awake.  I did not create you to be held a prisoner.  Rise up from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.  Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image.  Rise up, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form one person and we cannot be separated.”

We may believe in the “resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come, “but the risen Christ offers us more.  Because we live in him and he in us, and we cannot be separated, God-life is in us, God-life will be in you who are about to be baptized, and in this God-life, we discover that we have died with him, been raised with him, made alive with him, in fellowship with him, changed by him and loved into becoming the sons and daughters of God.  Christ is risen, brothers and sisters, in you, in me, in us – now, so that we might live now, fully alive – to the glory and praise of god the father.  

In a few minutes, you who are to be baptized, and in a few more minutes, you, who have been baptized will make or renew your baptismal promises, know that when you say I do, you are not merely confessing some abstract credal formulas, some dogmas of faith, know that you are saying yes to the God-life that is in you, to the God-life that lifts you from the tomb, unwraps the death-cloths and sets you free. 

So, with the Zen master, no- instead of the Zen master it is Jesus who says to these about to be baptized and to us – I want to see your resurrection.

Fr. Ron
April 16, 2017


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