From Hungry, and You Fed Me
Your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Jesus and Satan were having an ongoing argument about who was better on the computer. They had been going at it for days, and God the Father was tired of hearing all of the bickering. Finally God said, “Cool it! I am going to set up a test that will run two hours and I will judge who does the better job.”
So Satan and Jesus sat down at the keyboards and typed away. They worked Word. They excelled at Excel. They pounded out PowerPoint reports. They sent out e-mails with complicated attachments. They downloaded. They researched on the Web. They used Photoshop. But ten minutes before their time was up, lightning suddenly flashed across the sky, thunder clapped, the rain poured and, of course, the electricity went off.
Satan stared at his blank screen and screamed every curse word known in the underworld. Jesus just sighed. The electricity finally flickered back on and each of them restarted their computers. Satan started searching frantically and screamed, “It’s gone! It’s all gone! I lost everything when the power went off!”
Meanwhile, Jesus quietly started making pdf files of the past two hours of diligent work. Satan observed this and became irate. “Wait! He cheated! How did he do it?”
God shrugged and said, “Satan, you of all fallen angels should know. Jesus saves.”
Let me say something about (1) the truth that Jesus saves; (2) something about what the resurrection means, and (3) how we can believe it all.
Jesus saves us. From all sin. From all suffering. From all injustice. Wars and weapons, horrors and hate, torture and terror, fill the news. Teens commit suicide at alarming rates. Human trafficking ensnares young girls in 21st century forms of abject slavery. The never-ending revelations of priest sex abuse and the charges of bishops’ covering up the sins/crimes goes on and on. All the bad news.
And then there’s the personal tragedies and sadness of our days. A parent dies of cancer. Corporate malfeasance eliminates your job. A baseball player realizes he’ll never make the majors. And on a much more mundane level, it’s another year when I didn’t lose twenty-five pounds during Lent!
Into all the bad news and failures of the world comes Jesus. Jesus saves! Jesus is risen! He is truly risen! Alleluia! We share in his resurrection. This is what we celebrate today. This is what we believe.
Easter Sunday a few years ago, the congregation was responding loudly and enthusiastically, “We do,” to the renewal of our baptismal vows. As the last, “We do,” resounded through the church, a small, three-year-old girl, held in her father’s arms, let out with a perfectly timed, “I don’t.” All present cracked up laughing. It was funny. But it raises the question, what do we believe about the resurrection? What does Jesus’s resurrection mean for us?
Resurrection is not resuscitation or reanimation of a corpse. Resurrection is transformation. Resurrection is the promise of what will happen to those who die in Christ. Resurrection means “a complete transformation of the human being in his or her psychosomatic totality. Resurrection was thought of not as an event for the individual at death but as a corporate event. God would raise all the elect at the end of history.”
The Son of God became what we are so we might become what God is. That’s not some Jesuit spin on theology. That’s Saint Athanasius in the fourth century. Jesus’s resurrection gives us the grace, i.e., the power, we need to be able to live with God forever.
Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, today’s militant atheists, push their best-selling, but rather intellectually lightweight, polemical attacks on faith and religion. They say we are fools. Faith is ridiculous. Jesus died on the cross and that was it. Case closed. Death swallows us up in a meaningless, black void and we simply cease to exist.
Faith in the resurrection means we believe in life beyond this life, and that eternal life begins not when we die, but the moment we are baptized. We believe that the God who gives us existence, and preserves us alive all our days, will continue to give us the gift of life for all eternity. We know God has given us life now. Why would we assume God would stop giving us life when our bodies die? It seems to me that it makes more sense to hope for life beyond death. After all, I’m alive now, and that’s quite a miracle.
Each of our cells holds some 20,000 different types of protein. That’s some 100 million protein molecules in every one of our cells. There are some 20 million kilometers of DNA in the ten thousand trillion cells in our bodies. Your heart must pump 75 gallons of blood an hour, 1,800 gallons every day, 657,000 gallons a year.
Every one of the trillions of cells in our bodies will replace themselves several times during our earthly life. So even though our bodies change, we continue to exist. Why should we assume that the power that has made us will stop making us after our present body dies? It seems more reasonable a bet to think the God who has created us will continue to grace us with existence in a marvelously new, and hopefully thinner, resurrected body.
Life eternal is not like a change of horses where we ride off into a far distant sunset on another stallion. Karl Rahner, the great Jesuit theologian, taught that the resurrection means we become all we could ever have been. All the limits of this life are lifted and we are all we could ever hope and desire to be.
According to Jesuit David Stanley, the resurrection means that the kingdom of God has arrived on this Earth. New Testament authors intimate that Heaven means we join Jesus in his reign over the “course of world history. Heaven is not a kind of perennial ‘Old Folks Home.’ It is not simply a place of retirement and celestial repose for senior citizens of the kingdom of God. Heaven consists in the active participation in the glorified Christ’s direction of history.”
Last year, a man who was literally a second father to me died after a long bout with prostate cancer. Big Leo had withered away to a point where his adult children and I were taking turns providing hospice care to him. A few weeks later, a fishing buddy, Charlie, died. Another cancer victim.
I’ve been given the gift of faith. I believe I will see Leo and Charlie again. I believe we all will be transformed in Christ to live together in a “kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.” (Preface, Feast of Christ the King)
All of us have lost loved ones. Where are they? How are they? Rahner writes: “The great mistake of many people is to imagine that those whom death has taken, leave us. They do not leave us. They remain! Where are they? In the darkness? Oh, no. It is we who are in darkness. We do not see them, but they see us. Their eyes radiant with glory, are fixed upon our eyes. Though invisible to us, our dead are not absent. They are living near us transfigured into light and power and love.”
How can we believe this good news, this wonderful revelation of our God of love? Pray. Prayer reveals reality to us. Thomas Merton wrote, “Prayer is a real source of personal freedom in the midst of a world in which men are dominated by massive organizations and rigid institutions which seek only to exploit them for money and power. Far from being a source of alienation, true religion in spirit is a liberating force that helps man to find himself in God.”
Let’s find ourselves in God, this God who loves us, this God who saves us. Let us pray.