Christ is risen! He is truly risen! Alleluia!!
Last Easter Sunday, some of my siblings and I celebrated at our mother’s home. She was not feeling at all well, but very much wanted to have the dinner at her house.
When I arrived, she was playing the piano, going through some of her favorite songs, one of which was Easter parade. “In your Easter bonnet…” Some of us sang along as she played. After dinner, she was obviously very tired. She said she was going to lay down a while and we should just continue talking without her. Later, one of my sisters and I went in to see how she’s doing. She was very, very groggy, and a bit disoriented. She was talking about the Easter parade. So I quietly began to sing it to her. “With all the frills upon it…” I anointed her. Talking later, both my sister and I thought that that would be the moment of her death. In fact, she lived another six days.
I also had the privilege of being with her as she died. I had never had that experience before. Again, I anointed her. Another sister and I each held a hand as she calmly breathed her last. Today we celebrate her 93rd birthday. It is finished.
Or is it? At the time of my mother’s physical death, both my sister and I knew that this vibrantly engaged, loving woman, who was emotionally and supportively present for all of the good and bad times of her eleven children and her husband of sixty-six years could not possibly, with one last gasp, be completely erased from all that is. Somewhere, somehow, she was raised up to completion. She will rise again.
As with Mary of Magdala and Peter and the disciple Jesús loved, even in finding the empty tomb, we do not fully understand that Jesús rose from the dead. We know he is gone, but we cannot believe that he has stopped existing. When we die, do we enter even more deeply into life, a new life? Our faith is that Jesus is still with us, and in our physical death we remain with Him. But our knowledge rebels. How could this be? We certainly want to live forever, and we hope to in Christ, but our understanding is limited and we rely on scripture and the promises of Jesús: “I am always with you…” “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
We do know we know we have many little dyings while physically alive—disappointment on one end, death of a loved one on the other, and much in between. Our faith informs how we respond to those circumstances. For the Christian, we know that if an ever-loving God is always with us, either God or we are missing something. Either God has a strange sense of what it means to love, since we can experience evil and hurt, or we cannot see the complete picture. We are limited by time and space; the God of Jesús is not. So we believe that there is always a resurrection after any form of death. There is always meaning and purpose, whether we understand it or not.
We also believe that the resurrection was not a one-time, historical event, which happened 2,000 years ago. It is not the coming back to life of what was, but coming into new life. It is new way of seeing and a new way of acting. Bread becomes body; wine becomes blood. It is an ongoing reality that has been happening again and again, if we believe in Christ. For example, faith in the resurrection moves us beyond love of neighbor to love of enemy. If pursuit of my safety trumps my ability to love whomever God has in my path, fear wins, and I distance myself from God’s heart for the world.
Fear moves us away from people who are different than us and limits us to those who look, think, and act like we do. There is no love outside of acceptance; there is only misunderstanding, demonization, and stereotype. Resurrection continually calls us to move toward “the other.”
I firmly believe that my mother, my father and my two brothers who are no longer with us are, non-the-less, still alive. I believe in the resurrection and life ever after. Why? Because even though I do not fully comprehend it, any other way makes no sense at all. Christ has risen and so will we! Alleluia!!