What Is Resurrection?

_MG_4676_edited-2Before we examine the meaning of the other seven stations on the Good Friday Ecumenical prayer Walk, we need to step back and get a better understanding of resurrection. Most of the faithful but few of the theologians and scripture scholars believe that we are speaking about a resuscitated corpse when we speak of Jesus’ resurrection.

Bishop Spong, who I think does a commendable job of summarizing contemporary theology and scripture studies, has done a whole series of articles on the crucifixion and resurrection (http://johnshelbyspong.com/). On the site you can subscribe to his weekly newsletter and this also gives you access to the archive of articles.

To simplify matters, let us just say that the New Testament gives conflicting reports. Was the Risen Christ in Judea (Jerusalem) or Galilee? Historically, we know that Jesus was born, preached the Good News, healed the sick, and was crucified as a common criminal. The only way to understand the import of his life, death, and resurrection is through poetry and metaphor which are not meant to be taken literally. My conclusion is that, after a period of time, the followers of Jesus grew in their understanding of his life and death and resurrection. They came to understand, for instance, that he was with them in the Breaking of the Bread. He was with them when the community gathered in his name. It may have taken the followers up to a year or so to fully understand what had happened. They came to understand that they were now the Body of Christ. Knowing of his impending death, Archbishop Romero understood resurrection—he would rise in the Salvadoran people.

Sister Joan Chittister says:

To say, “I believe in Jesus Christ . . . who rose from the dead,” is to say something about myself at the same time. It says that I myself am ready to be transformed. . . Until we find ourselves with new hearts, more penetrating insights, fewer compulsions, less need for the transient, greater awareness of the spiritual pulse of life, resurrection has not really happened for us. Jesus has risen but we have not. Resurrection is change at the root of the soul. It marks a whole new way of being in life. (“Vision and Viewpoint” newsletter, April 1, 2013)

Resurrection is then more about us than about Christ in the sense that resurrection has not happened if our lives go unchanged by the experience of the Living Christ. An intellectual understanding of the Risen Christ will not transform us. Rohr says we have to understand resurrection and other spiritual matters in our heads, hearts, and bodies. The real challenge is to let resurrection totally transform us. In the end, we can only pray for this will happen. We cannot make it happen. We are powerless to make it happen.

On Good Friday we asked, “Lord Jesus, we are searching for you. Where are you suffering today?” During the Easter season, we ask, “Lord Jesus, we are seeking you. Where are you rising today?” These questions bring us to the very heart of spirituality—paradox. Christ crucified and Christ Resurrected exist at the same time. Christ is suffering in those oppressed by religion, in exploited and beaten children, in veterans and the victims of war, in poverty, homelessness, and oppressive government. Nevertheless, Christ is risen in the people who heed Jesus’ message to alleviate human misery. Jesus is alive when we, his body, are alive.

What will change in our lives during this Easter season? What needs to change in our lives during this Easter season?  Just as it took the early followers time to understand in their heads, hearts, and bodies what the resurrection of Jesus meant, it will also take us time to absorb the impact of our belief in victory over death and resurrection to new life. It will take time for the culture of love to overcome the culture of death in our  heads, hearts, and bodies.

In the meantime, we can pray, meditate, read the scriptures, celebrate Eucharist and open ourselves to the promptings of the Spirit. Then, like Peter who had denied Christ three times, we will stand up in the marketplace, in our neighborhoods, and in our communities and proclaim:

God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. Exalted at the right hand of God, he poured forth the promise of the Holy Spirit that he received from the Father, as you both see and hear.”

The so-what that follows is the tough part. Now that we are empowered by the resurrection, what will we do to alleviate human suffering and bring the healing balm of the Risen Christ into our world here and now?


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