The Greatest Gift
Today, we celebrate the day that is the whole focus of who we are as Catholics. It is the resurrection of the Lord.
This day is so important that St. Paul warned that if Jesus did not resurrect from the dead, then we are wasting our time. Nothing we do as Catholics makes any sense outside the resurrection of the dead.
You may remember that I said on Good Friday that Jesus’ death without His resurrection makes him Socrates and no more. I said on Thursday that his death and His resurrection create a revolution of understanding of who God is and who we are. Nowhere else in history is there an understanding of God himself coming to save us from the effects of sin by giving his life that we could be saved.
However, here on this day, we see that Jesus resurrected and that simple reality changes everything.
Let me show you a great example: read the New Testament from Acts to Revelation and you will see that all of that is focused on how everything we come to know is changed once we understand the resurrection.
I want you to reflect on what that means.
Our Church has been in an intense struggle lately and let us look at these troubled times in light of the words of St. Teresa of Avila who taught it is a stupid idea that a road which ends with the greatest of all treasures would not be filled with difficulties and dangerous obstacles. This means that there are forces outside and even inside of our Church that seek to take away from us the greatest treasure.
When we look at the big picture, we can see that there is a tremendous force to get us to reject Christ and his promise of eternal life. Let’s take the story in Genesis. Then Pope Benedict XVI reminded us in 2011 that Genesis is not a mechanistic account of the creation of the world. Understanding that, we can see it is an account that there are forces of death that will do everything they can to convince you that there is no such thing as eternal life, but that God himself will overcome all those forces. This is what we celebrate today. We join with Christ and fight those forces every day in and out of the Church.
The point of today is to see the promise that there is eternal life and we can only experience the fullness of humanity when we pursue it.
It is possible that we as a Church took our eyes off the prize. We looked at the Church as an NGO or a social service agency and forgot our main focus is to help people pursue the greatest prize in their lives—eternal life in Christ.
We are not here as a branch of this or any other government, as the religious wing of any political party. We are not here to help people become more socially accepted. We are really not here to change the culture. We are here for one reason: to pursue our own journey to the eternal life Jesus’ resurrection promises to us who follow him and to lead others to understand, seek and find it as well.
One of the greatest tools of the devil is to get us to forget that and turn us into a social service agency or an NGO.
Science works in a rather simple way, one takes a theory and notices if the theory is true then certain things will happen and if the theory is false then others will happen.
I am reminded of a movie No Highway in the Sky starring Jimmy Stewart, which I saw on probably Dialing for Dollars when I was home sick from school one day. Stewart plays a man who sabotages a plane because he warned it was about to crash if it took off. The authorities deciding that he was crazy arrested him. Low and behold when they repaired the plane and got it to fly again, the tail fell off as it taxied after landing from a test flight. He was not a terrorist or a psychic. He was a scientist and who knew the effects of metal fatigue on aircraft. His theory was that this plane had flown a certain number of hours that were beyond the ability of the metal to withstand and the tail would fall off. That is exactly what happened.
Either what we believe is true or it is not. If we assume it is not, which means there is no resurrection of the dead and there is no story from Genesis, then we can assume that we as human beings can create utopia. This is the theory of many of our idealistic political systems to say nothing of John Lennon’s Imagine which drives many atheistic political ideas. However, if we assume what we believe is true and there is original sin and there is a resurrection from the dead, then we can assume only in Christ can we find our destiny which is eternal life in Him. Further, if what some people say, that our church is loaded with corruption is true then how much more corrupt will be those institutions that are built on the belief they are filled with people capable of building a perfect world if humanity in fact cannot?
You may or may not know that I hate to fly. I am not afraid, but I hate it. So, I avoid flying at all possible costs as I would avoid a root canal. The rare times I fly, I check luggage if I have any and just take my backpack on board. I leave it under the seat in front of me and ride with all I need to get through my experience on the flying tube of torture called an airplane. I noticed that by doing that, I don’t end up in the overhead bin lottery where people vie to be the first on the plane so they can pack their bags in the overhead bin. After a certain point, it becomes a real contest to find space. Losers in the lottery have to check their luggage.
We are focused on the next the life through the resurrection of the Christ. That is why our main focus is in serving the less fortunate, the marginalized, the rejected because like those who lose the overhead bin lottery, they too find themselves on the outs with what is left. We invite them to join our experience of focusing on Christ, and let the rest fight it out for the little this life can offer them. We do what we can to please Christ for he gives us what nothing on this earth can promise, the greatest of all treasures—the fullness of our humanity through eternal life.
Now is the time for us to get back to the original message. Our Church is not about political parties, political alliances, alt left and alt right biases. It is about one thing, which is being the door to eternal life which can only be found in Christ and which Christ alone offers us. During this year, especially as we look forward to a rather stormy primary season next year, let us remember one thing. If we are not focused on our journey to the resurrection, if we are not leading others to Christ then we are in the wrong business and all our endeavors will fail.
We must seek only one thing, holiness in Christ and let those who listen to false voices that teach there is no resurrection, there is no eternal life and Jesus did not resurrect from the dead, fight it out among themselves for what is left.
We carry within ourselves the message of Christ who leads us to the resurrection of the dead and the fullness of humanity and only in Christ will we find it, but further no one can take it away from us no matter who or what they are.
Photo Credit: Nikolay Koshelev The Harrowing of Hell, via Wikimedia.org, public domain