Dying into Life
Sunday, May 7, 2017
The Resurrection is not a one-time miracle that proved Jesus was God. Jesus’ death and resurrection name and reveal what is happening everywhere and all the time in God and in everything God creates. Reality is always moving toward resurrection. As prayers of the Catholic funeral Mass affirm, “Life is not ended but merely changed.” This is the divine mystery of transformation, fully evident in the entire physical universe. This is why I believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus, even if it is a new kind of physicality, which Paul struggles to describe (see 1 Corinthians 15:35).
Resurrection is not an isolated miracle as much as it is an enduring relationship. The best way to speak about the Resurrection is not to say “Jesus rose from the dead”—as if it was self-generated—but to say “Jesus was raised from the dead” (as many early texts state). The Eternal Christ is thus revealed as the map, the blueprint, the “promise,” “pledge,” and “guarantee” (Paul’s metaphors) of what is happening everywhere, all summed up in one person so we can see it in personified and singular form.
I think this is why Jesus usually called himself “The Son of Man,” as in the Archetypal Human. His resurrection is not so much a miracle that we can argue about, believe, or disbelieve, but an invitation to look deeper at the pattern of death and rising in all that is human. Jesus, or any member of “the Body of Christ,” cannot really die because we are all participating in something eternal—the Universal Christ that has existed “from the beginning.”
Death is not just the death of the physical body, but all the times we hit bottom and must let go of how we thought life should be and surrender to a Larger Power. And in that sense, we all probably go through many deaths in our lifetime. These deaths to the small self are tipping points, opportunities to choose transformation early. Unfortunately, most people turn bitter and look for someone to blame. So their death is indeed death for them, because they close down to growth and new life.
But if you do choose to walk through the depths—even the depths of your own sin and mistakes—you will come out the other side, knowing you’ve been taken there by a Source larger than yourself. Surely this is what it means to be saved. Being saved doesn’t mean that you are any better than anyone else or will be whisked off into heaven. It means you’ve allowed and accepted the mystery of transformation here and now. And as now, so later!
If we are to speak of miracles, the most miraculous thing of all is that God uses the very thing that would normally destroy you—the tragic, sorrowful, painful, or unjust—to transform and enlighten you. Now you are indestructible; there are no dead ends. This is what we mean when we say we are “saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus.” This is not a one-time cosmic transaction, but the constant pattern of all growth and change. Jesus is indeed saving the world by guiding us through all would-be deaths to a life that is always bigger than death.
Gateway to Silence:
Alleluia, alleluia, amen!
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Easter Homily: Reality Moves Toward Resurrection,” March 27, 2016, Holy Family Parish, Albuquerque, New Mexico, https://cac.org/easter-homily-reality-moves-toward-resurrection/.