Theme:
Jesus' Resurrection

Jesus’ Resurrection

Summary: Sunday, April 21—Friday, April 26, 2019

Easter is not just the final chapter of Jesus’ life, but the final chapter of history. Death does not have the last word. (Sunday)

Love is the energy that sustains the universe, moving us toward a future of resurrection. We do not even need to call it love or God or resurrection for its work to be done. (Monday)

Great love and great suffering bring us back to God, and I believe this is how Jesus himself walked humanity back to God. It is not just a path of resurrection rewards but a path that includes death and woundedness. (Tuesday)

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. (Wednesday)

In the resurrection, the single physical body of Jesus moved beyond all limits of space and time into a new notion of physicality and light—which includes all of us in its embodiment. (Thursday)

Death and life are two sides of the same coin; you cannot have one without the other. Each time you surrender, each time you trust the dying, your faith is led to a deeper level and you discover a Larger Self underneath. (Friday)


Practice: Alive Again (A Song Today!)
This Easter week we’ve explored Jesus’ resurrection as an archetype of the universal pattern all life follows. In the midst of suffering, grief, or depression, it can be hard to remember that this, too, shall pass. While we can’t skip over or rush through pain to get to a happy ending, sometimes it helps to focus on resurrection. Can you recall a time when you came out the other side of a hard experience, a day when you suddenly felt free? Can you imagine joy and healing and actually feel it in your body?

From this space of hope and possibility, read aloud and listen to a choir sing this poem by e. e. cummings. Try whispering and shouting the words. Listen in stillness or while dancing. What is it like to be “alive again today”?

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes 

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth) 

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You? 

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened) [1]

References:
[1] E. E. Cummings, “i thank You God for most this amazing,” COMPLETE POEMS: 1904-1962, ed. George James Firmage (Liveright Publishing Corporation: 1950, © 1978, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust). Used by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. This selection may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Music composed by Eric Whitacre, The Complete A Cappella Works, 1991-2001, performed by Brigham Young University Singers, conducted by Ronald Staheli.

For Further Study:
John Dominic Crossan and Sarah Sexton Crossan, Resurrecting Easter: How the West Lost and the East Kept the Original Easter Vision (HarperOne: 2018)

Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013)

Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019)

Image credit: The Resurrection, 1316-1321, The Church of Holy Savior in Chora, Istanbul, Turkey, Chora Museum, Ayhan Altun / Alamy Stock Photo.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image:
Wake up, sleeper,
Rise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.
—Ephesians 5:13-14 (Jerusalem Bible)
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Jesus’ Resurrection

Death Transformed
Friday, April 26, 2019

Christianity—as well as Buddhism, other religions, and natural systems—suggests that the pattern of transformation, the pattern that connects, the life that Reality offers us is not death avoided, but death transformed. In other words, the only trustworthy pattern of spiritual transformation is death and resurrection. Christians learn to submit to trials because Jesus told us that we must “carry the cross” with him. Buddhists do it because the Buddha very directly said that “life is suffering.” Buddhism teaches us to skillfully discern the source of suffering, detach from our expectations and resentments, and end all suffering.

Death and life are two sides of the same coin; you cannot have one without the other. Each time you surrender, each time you trust the dying, your faith is led to a deeper level and you discover a Larger Self underneath. You decide not to push yourself to the front of the line, and something much better happens in the back of the line. You let go of your narcissistic anger, and you find that you start feeling much happier. You surrender your need to control your partner, and finally the relationship blossoms or ends. Yet each time it is a choice—and each time it is a kind of dying. It seems we only know what life is when we know what death is.

The mystics and great saints were those who had learned to trust and allow this pattern, and often said in effect, “What did I ever lose by dying?” Or try Paul’s famous one-liner: “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Now even scientific studies, including those of near-death experiences, reveal the same universal pattern. Things change and grow by dying to their present state, but each time it is a risk. We always wonder, “Will it work this time?” So many academic disciplines are coming together, each in their own way, to say that there’s a constant movement of loss and renewal at work in this world at every level. It seems to be the pattern of all growth and evolution. To be alive means to surrender to this inevitable flow. It’s the same pattern in every atom, in every human relationship, and in every galaxy. Indigenous peoples, Hindu gurus, Buddha, Moses, Muhammad, and Jesus all saw it clearly in human history and named it as a kind of “necessary dying.”

If this pattern is true, it has been true all the time and everywhere. Such seeing did not just start two thousand years ago. All of us have to eventually learn to let go of something smaller so something bigger can happen. But that’s not a religion—it’s highly visible truth. It is the Way Reality Works.

Yes, I am saying that the way things work and Christ are one and the same. This is not a religion to be either fervently joined or angrily rejected. It is a train ride already in motion. The tracks are visible everywhere. You can be a willing and happy traveler. Or not.

References:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 218-219; and

Dying: We Need It for Life in Richard Rohr on Transformation: Collected Talks, Volume 1, disc 4 (Franciscan Media: 2002), CD.

Image credit: The Resurrection, 1316-1321, The Church of Holy Savior in Chora, Istanbul, Turkey, Chora Museum, Ayhan Altun / Alamy Stock Photo.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image:
Wake up, sleeper,
Rise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.
—Ephesians 5:13-14 (Jerusalem Bible)
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Jesus’ Resurrection

From Darkness to Light
Thursday, April 25, 2019

Anything exposed by the light will be illuminated and anything illuminated turns into light. That is why it is said:

Wake up, sleeper,
Rise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.

—Ephesians 5:13-14 (Jerusalem Bible)

At the resurrection, Jesus was revealed as the eternal and deathless Christ in embodied form. Basically, one circumscribed body of Jesus morphed into ubiquitous Light. Light is perhaps the best metaphor for Christ or God.

For most of the first six centuries of Christianity, the moment of Jesus’ resurrection was deemed unpaintable or uncarvable. [1] The event is not even directly described as such in the New Testament. All we see are the aftermath stories—stunned guards, seated angels, visiting women, and other resurrections: “The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of those who had fallen asleep were raised up” (see Matthew 27:51-53). Note how resurrection was already corporately understood in this telling verse.

After the resurrection stories, more followers dared to see Jesus as “the Lord”—or at least as one with the Lord, understood as “Son of God.” One could say Jesus is gradually revealed as “Light,” especially in the three accounts of the “Transfiguration” (Matthew 17:1–8; Mark 9:2–8; Luke 9:28–36). These are likely transplanted resurrection accounts, as is the story of Jesus walking on the water.

Most of us, if we are listening and looking, also have such resurrection moments in the middle of our lives, when “the veil parts” now and then. Jesus says, “Believe in the light so that you also may become children of the light” (John 12:36), letting us know that we participate in the same mystery, and he is here to aid the process.

Back in 1967, my systematic theology professor, Fr. Cyrin Maus, OFM, told us that if a video camera had been placed in front of Jesus’ tomb, it wouldn’t have filmed a lone man emerging from a grave (which would be resuscitation more than resurrection). More likely, he felt, it would’ve captured something like beams of light extending in all directions.

In the resurrection, the single physical body of Jesus moved beyond all limits of space and time into a new notion of physicality and light—which includes all of us in its embodiment. Christians called this the “glorified body,” and it is similar to what Hindus and Buddhists sometimes call the “subtle body.” This is pictured by a halo or aura, which Catholics placed around “saints” to show that they already participated in the one shared Light.

This is for me a very helpful meaning for the resurrection of Jesus, which might be better described as Jesus’ “universalization,” a warping of time and space, if you will. Jesus was always objectively the Universal Christ, but his significance for humanity and for us was made ubiquitous, personal, and attractive for those willing to meet Reality through him. Many do meet Divine Reality without this “shortcut,” and we must be honest about that. Only “by the fruits will you know” (Matthew 7:16–20). People who are properly aligned with Love and Light—“enlightened”—will always see in holistic ways, regardless of their denomination or religion.

References:
[1] See John Dominic Crossan and Sara Sexton Crossan, Resurrecting Easter: How the West Lost and the East Kept the Original Easter Vision (HarperOne:2018), 45-59.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 176-178.

Image credit: The Resurrection, 1316-1321, The Church of Holy Savior in Chora, Istanbul, Turkey, Chora Museum, Ayhan Altun / Alamy Stock Photo.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image:
Wake up, sleeper,
Rise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.
—Ephesians 5:13-14 (Jerusalem Bible)
Read Full Entry

Jesus’ Resurrection

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.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 170-172.

Image credit: The Resurrection, 1316-1321, The Church of Holy Savior in Chora, Istanbul, Turkey, Chora Museum, Ayhan Altun / Alamy Stock Photo.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image:
Wake up, sleeper,
Rise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.
—Ephesians 5:13-14 (Jerusalem Bible)
Read Full Entry

Jesus’ Resurrection

Saved by the Cross
Tuesday, April 23, 2019

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who was like us in every way, experienced every temptation, and never backtracked. —Hebrews 4:15 (my translation)

Jesus walked, enjoyed, and suffered the entire human journey, and he told us and showed us that we could and should do the same. His life exemplified unfolding mystery in all of its stages—from a hidden, divine conception, to an ordinary adult life full of love and problems, punctuated by a few moments of transfiguration and enlightenment, inevitable and deep suffering—leading to resurrection, a glorious ascension, and final return.

We do not need to be afraid of the depths and breadths of our own lives, of what this world offers us or asks of us. We are given permission to become intimate with our own experiences, learn from them, and allow ourselves to descend to the depth of things, even our mistakes, before we try too quickly to transcend it all in the name of some idealized purity or superiority. God hides in the depths—even our sins—and is not seen as long as we stay on the surface of anything.

The archetypal encounter between doubting Thomas and the Risen Jesus (John 20:19-28) is not really a story about believing in the fact of the resurrection but a story about believing that someone could be wounded and also resurrected at the same time! That is quite a different message and still desperately needed. “Put your finger here,” Jesus says to Thomas (John 20:27). Like Christ, we are all indeed wounded and resurrected at the same time. In fact, this might be the primary pastoral message of the Gospel.

I’ve often said that great love and great suffering (both healing and woundedness) are the universal, always available paths of transformation because they are the only things strong enough to take away the ego’s protections and pretensions. Great love and great suffering bring us back to God, and I believe this is how Jesus himself walked humanity back to God. It is not just a path of resurrection rewards but a path that now includes death and woundedness. Or as I teach our Living School students, the sequence goes order —> disorder —> reorder!

Jesus the Christ, in his crucifixion and resurrection, “summed up all things in himself, everything in heaven and everything on earth” (Ephesians 1:10). This one verse is the summary of Franciscan Christology. Jesus agreed to carry the mystery of universal suffering. He allowed it to change him (“resurrection”) and, it is to be hoped, us, so that we would be freed from the endless cycle of projecting our pain elsewhere or remaining trapped inside of it.

This is the fully resurrected life, the only way to be happy, free, loving, and therefore “saved.” In effect, Jesus was saying, “If I can trust it, you can too.” We are indeed saved by the cross—more than we realize. The people who hold the contradictions and resolve them in themselves are the saviors of the world. They are the only real agents of transformation, reconciliation, and newness.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 111-112, 147-148.

Image credit: The Resurrection, 1316-1321, The Church of Holy Savior in Chora, Istanbul, Turkey, Chora Museum, Ayhan Altun / Alamy Stock Photo.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image:
Wake up, sleeper,
Rise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.
—Ephesians 5:13-14 (Jerusalem Bible)
Read Full Entry

Jesus’ Resurrection

The Universal Pattern
Monday, April 22, 2019
Earth Day

To believe that Jesus was raised from the dead is not really a leap of faith. Resurrection and renewal are, in fact, the universal and observable patterns of everything. We might just as well use non-religious terms like springtime, regeneration, healing, forgiveness, life cycles, darkness and light. If incarnation is real, then resurrection in multitudinous forms is to be fully expected. Or to paraphrase a statement attributed to Albert Einstein, it is not that one thing is a miracle, but that the whole thing is a miracle!

If divine incarnation has any truth to it, then resurrection is a foregone conclusion, not a one-time anomaly in the body of Jesus, as our Western theology of the resurrection tried to prove—and of course it couldn’t. The Risen Christ is not a one-time miracle but the revelation of a universal pattern that is hard to see in the short run.

Our job is to figure out not the how or the when of resurrection, but just the what! Leave the how and the when to science and to God. True Christianity and true science are both transformational worldviews that place growth and development at their centers. Both endeavors, each in its own way, cooperate with some Divine Plan; whether God is formally acknowledged may not be that important. As C. G. Jung inscribed over his doorway, Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit, “Invoked or not invoked, God is still present.” [1]

God has worked anonymously since the very beginning—it has always been an inside and secret job.

The Spirit seems to work best underground. When aboveground, humans start fighting about it.

You can call this grace, the indwelling Holy Spirit, or just evolution toward union in love. God is not in competition with anybody, but only in deep-time cooperation with everybody who loves (Romans 8:28). Whenever we place one caring foot forward, God uses it, sustains it, and blesses it. Our impulse does not need to wear the name of religion.

Love is the energy that sustains the universe, moving us toward a future of resurrection. We do not even need to call it love or God or resurrection for its work to be done.

References:
[1] C. G. Jung, Letters: 1951–1961, vol. 2, ed. G. Adler (Princeton University Press: 1975), 611.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 99-100.

Image credit: The Resurrection, 1316-1321, The Church of Holy Savior in Chora, Istanbul, Turkey, Chora Museum, Ayhan Altun / Alamy Stock Photo.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image:
Wake up, sleeper,
Rise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.
—Ephesians 5:13-14 (Jerusalem Bible)
Read Full Entry

Jesus’ Resurrection

The Death of Death
Sunday, April 21, 2019
Easter

The seeds of Easter are already found in Christmas. If God can become flesh, incarnating in the material world, then resurrection is a natural conclusion. Nothing divine can die. Easter isn’t celebrating a one-time miracle as if it only happened in the body of Jesus and we’re all here to cheer for Jesus. That’s really not the point, but it is the message most Western Christians have been told. When Christianity split into East and West in 1054, both sides lost a piece of the puzzle.

The Resurrection, by Andrea di Bonaiuto, 1365-1367, Spanish Chapel, Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Florence ItalyLooking at artwork can help us understand the two different theologies. John Dominic Crossan studied images of the resurrection and found that Western art often shows Jesus walking alone out of the tomb carrying a white flag, as if to say, “Look at me! I made it!” Western theology declared “Jesus rose from the dead” as an individual. This fourteenth century painting by Italian Andrea di Bonaiuto is an example. [1]

The Eastern Church saw the resurrection in at least three ways: the trampling of hell, the corporate leading out of hell, and the corporate uplifting of humanity with Christ. [2] In Eastern icons of the resurrection, sometimes called “The Harrowing of Hell,” Jesus is surrounded by many people as he stands astride the pit of hell (as shown by this week’s banner from a medieval Byzantine church in Istanbul). [3] There are chains, bolts, and locks flying in all directions. In many interpretations, Hades—the god of death, not to be confused with Satan—is bound at the bottom of the pit, while Jesus pulls Adam and Eve, symbols of all humanity, out of hell. This is a very different message that never made it to the Western Church, either Catholic or Protestant. Eastern imagery suggests a hopeful message that is not only about Jesus but about society, humanity, and history itself.

Brothers and sisters, if we don’t believe that every crucifixion—war, poverty, torture, hunger—can somehow be redeemed, who of us would not be angry, cynical, hopeless? No wonder Western culture seems so skeptical today. It all doesn’t mean anything, it’s not going anywhere, because we weren’t given a wider and cosmic vision of Jesus’ resurrection. Easter is not just the final chapter of Jesus’ life, but the final chapter of history. Death does not have the last word.

Christ is not just pulling Adam and Eve out of hell. He’s pulling creation out of hell. Christ destroys death. We sing that in our songs and read it in our Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15), but for many Christians it seems to be “pretend.” For most of the past 2,000 years, the West tended to threaten us with death and hell: “If you don’t do it right, you’re going to hell.” Within many Eastern Orthodox churches, we see Jesus literally pulling people out of hell. Christ is the overcoming of hell and death in a very real, promised way. That’s what we’re celebrating today. You might consider joining an Orthodox service next Sunday, April 28, the day the Orthodox church observes Easter, and experience their excitement. Human beings do not tend to get deeply excited about things unless we are somehow a part of it.

References:
[1] The Resurrection, Andrea di Bonaiuto, 1365-1367, Spanish Chapel, Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy, Peter Barritt / Alamy Stock Photo.

[2] See John Dominic Crossan and Sarah Sexton Crossan, Resurrecting Easter: How the West Lost and the East Kept the Original Easter Vision (HarperOne: 2018), 153-154.

[3] The Resurrection, 1316-1321, The Church of Holy Savior in Chora, Istanbul, Turkey, Chora Museum, Ayhan Altun / Alamy Stock Photo.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Homily: “The Eastern Church Gets It More than the Western Church,” April 1, 2018; and

The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 105.

Image credit: The Resurrection, 1316-1321, The Church of Holy Savior in Chora, Istanbul, Turkey, Chora Museum, Ayhan Altun / Alamy Stock Photo.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image:
Wake up, sleeper,
Rise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.
 —Ephesians 5:13-14 (Jerusalem Bible)
Read Full Entry

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