Raised from the Dead
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
Nothing is the same forever, says modern science. Ninety-eight percent of our bodies’ atoms are replaced every year. Geologists, with good evidence over millennia, can prove that no landscape is permanent. Water, fog, steam, and ice are all the same thing but at different stages and temperatures. “Resurrection” is another word for change, but particularly positive change—which we tend to see only in the long run. In the short run, change often looks like death. The Preface to the Catholic funeral liturgy says, “Life is not ended, but merely changed.” Science is now giving us helpful language for what religion rightly intuited and imaged with mythological language. Myth does not mean “not true,” which is the common misunderstanding; it actually refers to things that are always and deeply true!
God could not wait for modern science to give history hope. It was enough to believe that Jesus “was raised from the dead,” somehow planting the hope and possibility of resurrection in our deepest unconscious. Jesus’ incarnate life, his passing over into death, and his resurrection into the ongoing Christ life is the archetypal model for the entire pattern of creation. He is the microcosm for the whole cosmos, or the map of the whole journey, in case you need or want one.
Nowadays most folks do not seem to think they need that map, especially when they are young. But the vagaries and disappointments of life’s journey eventually make us long for some overall direction, purpose, or goal beyond getting through another day. All who hold any kind of unexplainable hope believe in resurrection, whether they are formal Christians or not, and even if they don’t believe Jesus was physically raised from the dead. I have met such people from all kinds of backgrounds, religious and nonreligious.
Personally, I do believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus because it affirms what the whole physical and biological universe is also saying—and grounds it in one personality. Resurrection must also be fully practical and material. If matter is inhabited by God, then matter is somehow eternal, and when the creed says, we believe in the “resurrection of the body,” it means our bodies too, not just Jesus’ body! As in him, so also in all of us. As in all of us, so also in him. So I am quite conservative and orthodox by most standards on this important issue, although I also realize it seems to be a very different kind of embodiment post-resurrection as suggested by the Gospel accounts.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 170-172.