Reflection on Easter Sunday
We gather this morning to celebrate
The Gift of Resurrection
The world is charged with the grandeur of God. …
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
— Gerard Manley Hopkins
It’s quite amazing to reflect on how timely it is to have Easter happen right now … right at a time when we are surrounded by death and dying. Maybe for a moment now we might shift the focus of our eyes and hearts and imaginations and remember the gift of Resurrection.
As many of you know, current theology has shed new and welcome light on some of the traditional ways the Church has interpreted Jesus’ painful death on the cross.(1) We were taught — as the Scriptures presented it — that Jesus had to suffer that ignominious and horribly painful crucifixion as payment to God for our humans’ sinfulness. God, his Father, accepted Jesus’ obedience as payment, and forgave us. … ? But wasn’t there always something that seemed wrong about that interpretation: what parent could be pleased or mollified by their child’s agony — let alone a loving God??
Recent theologians have helped us recognize how that interpretation was formed through the cultural lens of medieval centuries, and they have opened new vistas to see new insights and meanings that can fit — and enrich — our understanding of the gift of resurrection. (1)
Further, now we know something of cosmos, and of our Earth Home — one tiny planet spinning through space at unimaginable speed. We’re aware of our human capacities and our limitations: we can walk on the moon and reach into outer space, and we can destroy our own planet. Most essentially, we’ve become aware that everything is integrally interconnected with everything else. … And nothing is ever permanent. Maybe we’re learning from this virus, how intractably connected we are; maybe we realize that the process of dying and rising and dying and rising is happening with every breath we take, at every moment everywhere in every thing. Down to the smallest molecule, in the soil, our pores, every cell in our bodies: Everything is changing, exchanging — dying and re-forming in every moment. Nothing dies that isn’t recycled. Giving and receiving, losing and gaining , dying and morphing into new form, new life, resurrection — that is the pattern of existence on Earth. … our being, all being. Nothing is wasted; every thing is recycled … resurrected. The GIFT of resurrection is fundamental to all being on Planet Earth.
When we think of the whole of Earth and the unimaginable complexity of every thing, every person: from the beginning, everything that exists on Earth, you and me — every bit of everything is always changing — some visibly, some not, but changing form, visible or not, growing or decaying.
Our feast today — Jesus’ Resurrection — makes it clear: LIFE has the last word. And today as we face into the global tragedy we are undergoing , maybe for a moment we can shift the focus of this feast: Maybe instead of highlighting our sinfulness and the pain of Jesus’ redeeming, we could consciously glorify the image, the person of the Risen Christ — and remember not only that he died, but that he lived truth and love to the end. Teaching us to LIVE, modeling fidelity to Truth and the final priority of Love. His presence was healing of mind and body. … It was not only his death, but even more, his LIFE, that brings the gift of resurrection to us humans. We humans are not only body; our bodies decay, as did Jesus’; Spirit lives on, as did Jesus’… in us.
Everything on this Earth (maybe in this whole cosmos?) is caught up in that cycle of life/death/life/death … new life. Maybe this feast at this time of pandemic can help us to remember that everything we know, living and non-living, is always undergoing change — sometimes unnoticed, sometimes seeming life-threatening and sadly mourned. The virus can prod us to live whatever role might be given to us, to participate however we can, with gifts of wisdom, kindness, cooperation and love. Maybe it can help us read our own lives on Earth through the large lens of the gift of Resurrection — shot through the whole of creation. The body dies; the spirit, freed now, moves on. Let’s remember the lines of G.M. Hopkins (see at top).
(1) Elizabeth A. Johnson Creation and the Cross: The Mercy of God for a Planet in Peril (Orbis Books,) 2018