Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Christ's Resurrection and Ours

~from Francis Cardinal George


St. Teresa of Avila told the story of the devil's appearing to her in the guise of the Risen Christ, hoping to tempt her into believing that it was Jesus himself coming to her. Immediately she dismissed him; but before he left her the Evil One asked her how she knew that he was not Christ. St. Teresa answered, “Because you have no wounds.”

The source of Christian joy is Christ's resurrection from the dead. The tomb is empty. His risen body is glorified, but it remains his, bearing the wounds of his passion. Because in Jesus' body death has not been only temporarily delayed, as was the case with Lazarus coming from the tomb bound in his burial cloths, Jesus left the shroud in which his dead body had been wrapped and he rose to appear to those whom he had chosen to be his witnesses. Death was conquered, not delayed. We who are his disciples bear the same witness as Peter and John, Mary Magdalene and the holy women, although we, like they, are yet to experience resurrection in our own bodies.

In the creed we pronounce our belief not just in Jesus' resurrection but in our own. The resurrection of the body is harder to imagine than the immortality of the soul, yet both are truths of faith. Sometimes we associate the dead with spectral images or decaying bodies; too seldom do we think of risen bodies, glorified and eternal. We will bear our wounds for eternity, but we will do so joyfully and with complete freedom. Where our imagination fails or reverts to customary types, our faith moves our minds to accept a mystery made possible by God's infinite love: “I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.”

The late Pope John Paul II taught that our bodies bear witness to God's love by imaging that love in sexual union between a husband and wife. Male bodies are complementary to female bodies and vice versa. This seems obvious enough, and it has been so from the beginning of the human race. What the late Holy Father did was relate this natural complementarity in great detail to the new life of grace.

A risen body is the final human witness to the triumph of God's grace. Because the risen Christ calls us out of our own ways and habits, regular efforts are mounted to whittle Christ down to size. If he wasn't crucified and is not risen, if he is just like anyone else, if he had a hidden wife and children and was really unexceptional, then no one can call him Lord and he can call no one to conversion. The risen Christ is feared; he invades our autonomy. He cannot be allowed to be different.

The lessons of a risen body are enshrined in Catholic moral teaching. It would be a very different world if, through the power of the grace won for us by the risen Christ, that teaching were followed. There would be no exploitation of women or men, no human trafficking, no babies deliberately killed, no promiscuous sex, no infidelity and sexual betrayal, no use of another just for one's selfish pleasure, no insecure children, no abandoned mothers, no sexually abused children, no glorification of those who move from bed to bed on their journey toward death. If the generosity and self-sacrifice born of a healthy sense of sexuality were normative, then the right order of society could be attended to in working for justice among peoples, for the rightful care of the earth, for the dignity of the poor. Justice is a form of integrity, and true justice is unattainable without sexual, bodily integrity.

The Easter season beginning now and lasting until the Feast of Pentecost will be, I hope, a time when we witness to the world the source of our joy. There are always wounds to nurse and hurts to heal; but these are secondary to the truth that rules our lives and brings the world to fulfillment: Christ is risen, and he is the first-born of all who will rise from the dead when he returns in glory.

2 comments:

Patricia Tryon said...

My previous attempt to comment seems to have been gobbled up by google-blogger, so I'll try again: what's the source of this?

Argent said...

Hi, Patricia.

It's Cardinal George's Easter message found at the Chicago Archdiocesan website.