My weekly post straddles Holy Week and Easter Week, so I pondered whether to focus on the passion and death of Jesus or his resurrection. Then it occurred to me that I should cover both. After all, these paschal mysteries are intimately related. It was only by suffering and dying that Jesus was able to rise with glorious new life. For him and for us the adage holds true: No cross, no crown. At every Eucharist we enter into both his death and resurrection. Dying and rising is a motif found in nature. Jesus himself pointed out how a seed must die in order to bring forth new life. Underground, seeds burst open and are no longer seeds but become lovely flowers or food for us. Three hundred sixty-five times a year, the sun dies and all is dark, but we can count on the life-giving sun coming up again the next morning. Each night we experience a “little death” as we sleep, but then we arise with new vigor the next day. Every winter when the cold, barren world seems dead, we know there will be a spring someday, even after this record-breaking winter! I’m reminded too of those gigantic redwood trees that must succumb to fire before the seeds in their cones are released to produce new trees.
In daily life we periodically undergo “deaths” that lead to new life. Sometimes in producing books, I encounter painful challenges such as publishers’ rejections, editors who mutilate my carefully crafted text, and impossible deadlines. Strangely, I’ve found that the more suffering that goes into a book, the better it turns out! This is the case for anyone who strives to excel in a field. Athletes die to self as they exercise, diet, and train. Musicians to some extent suffer as they perfect their techniques. In God’s mysterious ways we may be weighed down with a terrible burden. We might feel as though we are trapped in a tomb. One benefit that hardships lead to is the special gift of being able to understand others who suffer— just the way God-made-flesh understands what it means for us humans to suffer. In times of trial, we can be consoled by the thought “And this too shall pass.” After the storm, the rainbow. After the crucifixion, resurrection.
The ultimate difficult experience occurs at the end of our lives. We die. Sometimes this is accompanied by suffering that is agonizing for loved ones to watch. But because Jesus was victorious over death, we can trust his promise that we too will rise again. We will be like Lazarus, but even more fortunate. He had to die again, but after we die, we will have eternal life. As U.S. senate chaplain Peter Marshall once remarked, Jesus promised that what we had hoped for was true!
A Happy Easter to all!
(I tried to add a YouTube recording of Handel’s “Halleluiah Chorus” but with no luck. Perhaps you can sing it yourself!)
When have you been blessed with new life after an apparent death?