Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Resurrection (and Jaws)

(32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, C)

The year of grace 2007 is beginning to come to a close, and we find ourselves once again at the end of the liturgical year. And at the end of the church year, the liturgy and the readings from Sacred Scripture always invite us to reflect on what will come at the end, the Last Things. Today the readings invite us into the primary mystery of our final destiny, the Resurrection. Though we aren’t sure about what it will be like—and this is clear from the Gospel we just heard—our Resurrected destiny ought to give us faith and courage, as it did for the seven brothers we heard about in the reading from 2 Maccabees.

Since the Resurrection is where we are going, since it is the new life to which we are looking forward, it is good for us to have a strong and intelligent idea of what we mean by the Resurrection.

Whenever we say anything about Resurrection, we are first of all talking about the Lord’s own Resurrection, his rising to new life that we celebrate every Easter and on each Sunday. But what do we mean by our Easter proclamation, “Christ is Risen”? Well, here’s one way to think about it—just go with me on this for a moment.

Do you remember the movie Jaws? Do you remember how Jaws is finally killed? Roy Scheider throws a tank of compressed air into the shark’s throat, and then shoots it with his gun. The tank of air explodes, blowing Jaws up. This is a little bit like what we mean by the Lord’s Resurrection. Jaws is like death, and the tank of pure air is like Jesus Christ.

Just as Jaws was able to partially swallow the tank of air, so in the human nature he borrowed from us, Jesus was able to be die, to be swallowed by death. But because Jesus Christ is also God, death can’t hold on to him. The power and love of God explode death from the inside; though he could be swallowed by death in his humanity, death could not hold on to Jesus Christ in his divinity. As the tank of compressed air blew up Jaws from the inside, so the divinity of Christ destroys death from the inside.

This is the Resurrection, and the good news for us is that there is now a path through death to new life, a path established by Jesus Christ in his humanity and divinity. And we are on this path to the Resurrection because of our baptism and because of the Holy Communion we celebrate in this Eucharist. This communion is the joining of Christ’s humanity to ours; the Mass is a celebration and ratification of the unity of our humanity—indeed our very bodies—with the humanity of Christ. And thus as the body of Christ was raised from the dead, so we too as the body of Christ which is the Church are on our way to Resurrection.

Now it’s true, we don’t know what our resurrected life will be like. That much is clear from the Gospel today, in which the Sadducees make all kinds of trouble because they are imagining our final, resurrected destiny in terms of the human society we have now. And Jesus gently reminds them, no, this is a whole new reality, and you can’t think of it in terms of the life and commitments we have in this life.

But even though we don’t really know what this “life of the world to come” we will be like, it can give us a lot of courage. Think of the seven brothers in the first reading today. They had no fear of death because they knew that God would provide new life for them on the other side of death. Thus, there was no suffering that could make them turn from God. Nothing could scare them. They were perfectly free.

Let us enjoy our freedom from the fear of death. It sets us free to live! Yes, every one of us will die. But we have no need to fear our death, because we know that Jesus Christ has passed through our human death ahead of us, taken away its power, and provided for us a safe path through our dying to the new life of the Resurrection.

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