Saturday, April 23, 2011

Picture this

Hats and dresses, flowers and eggs. All these elements can decorate any Easter card or display, but why? Christmas is so easy to paint: the beautiful child and beautiful mother, present and approachable, adorable, easy to understand and easier to love. Easter is a little trickier to picture – just what does resurrection from the dead actually look like?

Sure, artists have tried, but they are at a loss. Nobody saw it happen; only the results were visible. And the Risen Christ Himself was somehow the same as before, and somehow – we’re not sure how – very different. Sometimes his friends recognized Him; sometimes they didn’t. How do you picture that?

All of the traditional symbols of Easter point to something more basic, something good and essential, but hard to capture on a greeting card: life. Life in its most beautiful form, and what is more, life where before there was only death.

There is nothing more final than death, nothing deader than dead. There is nothing to be done about it. Until death comes, we can still hope; but once it does come, whether we deny it or accept it, we cannot change it.

Easter changes that: this one was dead, and now he is not. Unlike Lazarus, or that kid in Iowa with stories of heaven, never again will He die. They were called back; he moved forward, into something new and different, both familiar and unrecognizable at the same time.

Easter is hard to get our brains around. Some folks give up, and put Easter in some more intelligible category: a ruse (they stole the body); a mistake (they didn’t quite kill him, and later he felt better); or a misrepresentation (they remembered him so vividly that it seemed to the community that he was alive and with them).

Easter is far more attractive than eggs or flowers or colors or candy, because it is not only something very, very good, but it is that very good something precisely where beforehand, even to think of something good was completely impossible.

We know all about improbable, and even about impossible: we know about us. You or someone you know may be tempted to think, I am too rotten, too far gone, for anyone to be interested in me; I‘ve had too many chances, and blown them all; I have hurt someone too badly, or I’ve ignored God too long for Him even to have my current address! But are you more rotten, more distant than dead? I think not!

God has accomplished the most improbable thing ever in the Resurrection of His Son Jesus from the dead. And if He can do that, you and I know that He can do something for us – even for us. For if Christ is raised from the dead, then you and I can be raised – from wherever we are!

For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:16-20

Improbable, maybe; impossible? Not! We cannot look at what we ourselves have accomplished, or ever hope to accomplish. We need to look to Him who knows us, and look to Him for mercy. The Risen Christ Himself was somehow the same as before, and somehow – we’re not sure how – very different. Easter means even though somehow – we’re not sure how – we ourselves will look very different, it is possible that the resurrection of the dead will look like me; Easter means it is probable that the resurrection of the dead will look like you.

A blessed Easter to you all, and to your families, friends, and most beloved ones. Hats and dresses, flowers and eggs are good; even very good. We are not in this for the chocolate, beloved brothers and sisters; we are in this for life. Christ is risen from the dead; truly He is risen. Alleluia!

Monsignor Smith

2 comments:

Teenage Bride said...

Thank you for these words
"You or someone you know may be tempted to think, I am too rotten, too far gone, for anyone to be interested in me; I‘ve had too many chances, and blown them all; I have hurt someone too badly, or I’ve ignored God too long for Him even to have my current address! But are you more rotten, more distant than dead? I think not"

I think many people feel that way and this is just what they need to hear. Christ is alive and he loves us even when we feel that we are not worthy to be loved.

Inupiaq said...

Let me add my thanks, too, to that of an earlier fan for the clarity and hopefulness of this week's message. Thank you, also, Monsignor, for the poetic adornments that closed out the Holy Week programs: Rosetti is always pretty, but in the presence of Hopkins's mighty sonnet, her verses seemed like more than mere decoration. As always, RKF's deeply spiritual musical programs lifted us out of the desperate urgency of temporal pursuits, onto a plane of transcendent values, a domain of Being. Saint Bernadette's celebration of the wonderful season was distinctively beautiful this spring. We are most richly blessed.