Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
“Seven Stanzas at Easter” by John Updike
Telephone Poles and Other Poems © 1961.
Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. We know this from all four gospel accounts of the resurrection. We also know it from St. Paul, who says he knew of more than 500 eye witnesses of the Resurrected Lord. And we know it from our own personal experience of the Risen Lord in our own lives, from our own experiences of the death and resurrection — the Paschal Mystery. Our faith tells us that if we want to experience the New Life of the Resurrection, we need to be willing to go through the experience of dying, of letting go, that Jesus did in his own passion and death. St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans puts it this way: “Through baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life. If we have been united with him through likeness to his death, so shall we be through a like resurrection….If we have died with Christ, we believe that we are also to live with him.” (Romans 6: 4-5, 8 )
Our faith in the Paschal Mystery can help us get through the most difficult of times. We can find hope, even when we are feeling the pangs of death, knowing that new life can and will occur. We are going through such a time of dying right now in the Church as we continue to struggle with the aftermath of the revelations of sexual abuse by clergy and the cover up by other church officials. It’s painful to go through the media scrutiny, not knowing what’s true and what’s not. It’s hard to be with the church as it is being attacked. And yet our faith tell us that it is just such an experience of dying to our pride and to our false sense of entitlement that will bring new life to the church.
There are aspects of our life as a Church that need to die. The attitude that clergy are above the law needs to die. The fear of admitting mistakes and having to deal with the resulting feelings of guilt and shame needs to die. The presence of patriarchy that is more concerned about keeping women in their proper place than in recognizing their baptismal dignity needs to die. There are those who, because of their fear, would counsel us to avoid this necessary dying—to live in denial. If we listen to them, we run the risk of losing the opportunity of new life that God is holding out to us as Church. So, if we will, we can embrace this dying of those things that need to be left behind so that we can experience the power of the resurrected life that God holds out to us this Easter Day.
Fr. Robert Pierson, OSB
Homily for Easter Sunday, April 4, 2010
St. Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, Minnesota