From time to time, we hear of the emergence of new cults. Every new cult hinges on a promise – the promise of a better life, a new life. As we know some cults can entertain some very bizarre notions. I recall one in which all the members died, willingly, inspired by a retired music professor who promised his followers that they would rise to a higher level. They died believing that somehow their deaths would connect them to a UFO which was travelling in a comet’s wake.
It sounds tragically bizarre, and indeed it is. But the story had a poignancy, breaking as it did on an Easter weekend. These people had sacrificed their lives believing that they would in some way rise from the dead. On the same weekend, Christians were celebrating the story of how Jesus sacrificed his life and rose from the dead. Are the two stories just a variation on a theme? The desire to rise from the dead is a deep human instinct and has been the motif of many myths over thousands of years. What is it that makes Jesus’ sacrifice real and the other bizarre? Why do we believe that Jesus claim to rise from the dead is true, is real and not fanciful or bizarre, a mere delusion for both him and we, his followers?
In our own instance, we celebrate that Jesus’ own sacrifice is not self-serving. Jesus sacrifices his life not to an idea and not simply for a cause. Jesus’ self sacrifice is a giving of himself to others, not simply a giving up of his life. Jesus gives his life to others. That is why he identifies his life with bread and wine: symbols of sustenance and community, as he will continue to do so for us in this very Eucharist. Jesus gives his life to others so that they might live. “No greater love has a person,” he says before he died, “than to lay down his life for his friends.” Love takes us to places that we would rather not go. Love took Jesus to the place of the criminal, the Cross and to death.
We celebrate that that love keeps generating life for those who remember it. This is what we mean by Resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection does not mean that he simply resuscitated, even though it has a physical dimension about it. Jesus’ resurrection means that his life and his love is stronger than the power of death and is now forever that in which we are able to share. The Resurrection, therefore, is about what is occurring here, now. Resurrection is about a new way of living, here, now. It is about a way of entering life, this life. Whenever a life of grief is transformed into one of hope, whenever a life without meaning is given purpose, whenever a life which is enclosed upon itself is opened out to others – there is Resurrection: the power of Jesus’ life which is always stronger than the force of death and denial. Whenever a life of shame is given dignity, whenever a life of fear is transfigured into courage – there is Resurrection.
Our celebration of the new life given to us by the Risen Jesus could be no more different than the macabre story we began with. One story of sacrifice ends simply in death. There is a gruesome finality to it all. The other story of sacrifice, the one of Jesus, ends in an empty tomb – full of possibility and hope and life, life in abundance for everyone who desires it. What makes the difference? The difference is that today we are here celebrating a new way of entering our life, here, now with all its ordinariness and ambiguity. Let us celebrate this day by honouring all those moments of resurrection which we have known, and which still await us.
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