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NOTIONS and RUMINATIONS We celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, but do we truly understand its meaning?

by Deacon Mark Plaiss

 

      One of the reasons I enjoy the Gospel of Mark so much is that the Apostles are portrayed as rather thick and slow. Take Mark 8:17,21, for example. In each of those passages, Jesus asks the boys, “Do you still not understand?” 

      I can imagine Jesus slapping his forehead with the palm of his hand when he asks them that. I don’t know, but I figure that if the Twelve were so slow on the uptake, I, at least, have a chance.

      This month, of course, we celebrate the feast of feasts on the Christian calendar: The resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Question: do we understand what’s going on, here?

      Intellectually, I believe we do. On the third day after his execution, Jesus rises from the dead. Fine, but can we dig a little deeper?

      Jesus’ resurrection is exactly that, resurrection - as opposed to resuscitation. Lazarus was resuscitated; he remained in his pre-resurrected body. (John 11:1-44) Jesus, on the other hand, is in his glorified body upon his resurrection. That is why some people fail to recognize him when first seen after his resurrection. (See John 20:11-18; Luke 24:13-35.) Thus, the resurrection has great ramifications for you and me. Our souls will eventually be united to our glorified bodies -  bodies that will not be subject to decay and death. Jesus, of course, is the first to experience this. Mary next. You and I are down the line. (See 1 Cor 15:23.)

      The resurrection is not reincarnation. This confounds many of my students. The belief in reincarnation is that one begins a new life in a different body after subsequent biological deaths. Note the plural, there: Deaths. Christians do not believe this, but for some reason it sounds cool to many of the teenagers in my classes. 

      Jesus’ resurrection ushers in a new age of human existence. No longer does death hold sway; no longer does death have the final word. We human beings, by gift of God the Father through his only Begotten Son, now have a light at the end of the tunnel. That light is life. That light is Christ in the Holy Spirit. 

      That means we need not fear death, because it’s not the end (easier said than done, I admit). There’s a beautiful line in the opening prayer for the Vigil of the Deceased (the funeral wake): “But for those who believe in your love, death is not the end, nor does it destroy the bonds that you forge in our lives.” 

      St. Paul puts it this way: “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor 5:17) Good stuff, indeed!

      The resurrection points to a reality beyond this one. This is both good and troublesome. It is good in that reality is not limited to this current life we live. Something lies beyond: Life after death. Thus, we cannot treat this reality as if it were absolute. On the other hand, we cannot ignore this current reality under the rationale that a “pie in the sky” awaits us, and so all we have to do is wait it out “here,” so we can bask in the glow of “there.” 

      No, Jesus says that “the kingdom of God has come near.” (Mark 1:15) In other words, God’s kingdom has arrived here in this reality; it’s just not yet fulfilled. 

      This notion that God’s kingdom has broken into our reality confounds our contemporaries. Going back to my students, as an example . . . for many of them, this world is all there is. Reality is material. If something cannot be measured, calibrated or weighed, then it does not exist. Any reality beyond this one is mere opinion subject to whim. On the other hand, those students are 18, tops.

      But has there ever been a time when God’s kingdom has not confounded people? Again, consider the Apostles, the “foundation” of the Church. (CCC 857) They are slow to pick up on it. If the foundation was slow to be constructed, how much more so the remaining structure?   

      My point: we must be patient with our contemporaries who pooh-pooh the kingdom of God. St. Paul’s dictum that we “ought to put up with the failings of the weak” (Romans 15:1) comes into play, here. 

      That is not an excuse to acquiesce to our contemporaries. However, if we take Jesus at his word that “the kingdom of God has come near,” then we are required to actupon that reality so that our contemporaries can seethat kingdom in us. Think of St. Francis of Assisi: Preach Jesus always, use words if necessary. 

      Celebrate well this Easter Season. And in doing so? Let you and I try to understand it. 

 

      Deacon Mark Plaiss teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Ill. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

       

       

        

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