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Archive for April, 2015

Friends, on this Easter we should remember that Jesus is not just a soul that’s gone to heaven. The resurrected Christ, as Paul said, is the first fruits of a new life. A whole new human nature has appeared and emerged.

Resurrection can’t simply mean, as many contemporary authors want us to believe, that the cause of Jesus goes on. (As though you listen to the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven and the society of Beethoven lovers says, “Well, the spirit of Beethoven goes on.”) People don’t give their whole lives, don’t go to the end of the world preaching, don’t go to their death in support of a vague metaphor. What galvanized the first Christians was that Jesus – the crucified one who had died-is now alive again.

On this Easter, we Christians must avoid another problem: seeing the Resurrection simply as a return to this life. Lazarus was raised from the dead, only to die again. He still belonged to the realm of death. When Lazarus came forth, he was still wearing his grave clothes. He still belonged, in some way, to the tomb.

That’s not what happens in the Resurrection. When Jesus rises from the dead, He leaves his grave clothes behind. Jesus now lives a new life exalted through the power of the Father. His relationship to space and time is now completely changed. He passes through locked doors. He comes and goes as he pleases.

Jesus is the first fruit of a new way of being, a new life. It’s still a human life, but it is now lived at a higher pitch of intensity. This is such good news for us because this is what God intends for all of us: that we now will share in the risen life of Jesus.

It’s our human life – yes, still bodily – but now lived at a higher level, spiritualized and glorified.

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Crucifix at Saint Etienne-du-Mont

Crucifix at Saint Etienne-du-Mont

What is the message that Jesus has for the world? At first he seems to confirm his followers’ hopes: “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.” Great! Finally, after putting things off for so long, he is ready; the moment has come.

But then he clarifies: “I solemnly assure you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies it produces much fruit.” Believe me, this is not what his followers wanted to hear.

The Jews had had more than enough experience with death. They had lived under oppression for centuries and their glory days were long ago. The Roman boot was pressing down upon them. Those who would endeavour to throw it off were imprisoned or killed. And now this one, upon whom they had pinned their hopes, at the high point of his life, is speaking of falling to the earth and dying.

Then it gets stranger: “The man who loves his life loses it, while the man who hates his life in this world, preserves it to life eternal.” Come again?!

To understand what all this means, we should go back to the great image that Jesus uses, the grain of wheat that falls to the earth. A seed, resting by itself, can exist for a long time. In fact, they have found seeds in the tombs of the Pharaohs and seeds in fossil remains. But unless they fall into the soil and crack open, nothing further comes of them. Their life is inside, yes, but it’s a life that grows by being given away and mixing with the soil around it. It has to crack open and be destroyed. But even after a very long time, a seed can grow into a flourishing plant. The oldest seed that has grown into a viable plant was a 2000-year-old date palm seed from excavations at Herod the Great’s palace on Masada in Israel. It was germinated in 2005.

When you look at a great tree or a plant, you see none of the original seed, and yet you see life. The same is true of the cross. When Christians look at the cross, we no longer see death, but eternal life.

Originally published by Fr. R. Barron

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