All of us have been hurt in one way or another. All of us have been held in the grip of pain… have been unable to rid ourselves of resentments. We have a sense of loneliness within us, the feeling of being isolated and that nobody cares. We feel separate, alone, and alienated. Added to these is a sense of fear for our future looming over us all. In the midst of all this we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead with its promise that our own Good Fridays will be followed by Easter Sundays. The Church presents us with that gift from God; she does not give us what is merely wishful thinking.
The story of Adam and Eve is constructed in such a way that immediately following their sin they recognized that they were naked. Their nakedness was something far more profound than mere physical nakedness. They recognized at a much deeper level that they were exposed — vulnerable, alienated, ashamed, isolated from God, stripped of the dignity of God’s grace. They were profoundly naked because they realized that they were no longer clothed in God’s good graces. It was in the nakedness of shame that they recognized themselves and saw themselves. They saw themselves as undesirable, unattractive – separated and alone like all of us who have felt the emptiness of loneliness, of being distanced from love; cut off from the warmth of friendship; isolated; having no one to love us… save only our own little and quite unsatisfying selves.
That’s precisely what sin does to us. It makes us miserable; it fills us with loneliness; it fills us with the awful awareness that we are quite inadequate; that we just don’t have the right stuff to be decent, that we lack moral courage and are not strong enough to pay the price for doing good. Sin makes us know the weakness, the inner weakness, of being inadequate to the task of doing only those things that are decent, right and good and give us self-respect.
During the liturgy of Good Friday we were given a reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The quote was taken from Isaiah 52, and it read: “We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way.” That, to my way of thinking, is at the core of our modern cultural sickness, our modern spiritual malaise… we have each gone off following our own individual way. We are victims of the delusion that we can do anything we want, anywhere we want, with whomever we want, and as often as we want. Furthermore, through our science and technology we have unlocked the secrets of the universe; we have almost unlimited power over nature, over the earth itself, over our world, and we are even projecting our power out into space, into the surrounding cosmos. It can be safely said that we certainly have power over our world and over nature to an extent never heretofore known to mortal men and women.
But to what avail — for what purpose? Are we not now more isolated and lonely than the men and women who have lived before us? Are we not more naked and exposed? Have we not rejected what used to be known as the Common Good in favor of asserting our own individual and personal rights over those we used to hold and share in common? Do not men and women today even claim a personal right over human life? As I understand it, that is precisely what the debate is over abortion and euthanasia is all about – the claim of personal right over human life, the projection of human will over the will of God.
“We have all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way”, Isaiah tells us. But we need no prophet to tell us that today. We ourselves know it to be true – we know it deep down, within. What we fail to see is that we are victims of our own making.
Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, victim no longer. His glorious, Spirit-filled risen humanity is no longer held in the tomb of shame, isolation and loneliness. He is risen that you and I might walk in the glorious freedom and dignity of the sons and daughters of God – clothed and no longer naked. Through the power of God’s Holy Spirit we can “put on Christ” as St. Paul bids us, put on the risen Christ. We can clothe ourselves in Christ’s way of living, in His truth, and in His Spirit-filled, resurrected life. We need no longer feel the shame and the nakedness of living with nothing but our own arrogance; of having nothing to clothe us more than our own self-will (which is transparently nothing other than our own self-delusion).
Christ’s victory can be our victory. He calls us, He invites us, He bids us to live anew with His risen Body and Blood mingled with ours. From His pierced side there flowed forth water and blood, which is to say that Baptism and Holy Communion came forth from his pierced side as He hung upon the Cross and emptied Himself, freely, of His own choice, giving over His life, for us.
“We have all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way”, Isaiah prophesied. And we know that we have. But we need no longer live each following his or her own way. We have a common union, a holy communion of shared human life in which we can live. We can live as living cells in a fantastically beautiful and powerful Mystical Body of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. We need no longer be imprisoned within the tombs of emotional darkness and spiritual death. We need no longer have our minds pierced by the excruciatingly painful crowns of thorns that we crush into our skulls and pierce into our minds. We need no longer live as victims in painful lives that we have, of our doing, fashioned for ourselves. We need no longer live as victims in moral relativism, in the tombs of subjectivism, in the absence of Truth, and in the painful isolation of our own self-declared omnipotence.
Jesus Christ is risen, victim no more, that you and I might be victims no more. We have His truth in which we can live, and we can live it together in a holy communion of life; we can live free of the hell of each following his or her own isolated way.
This is the great gift that the Church has to offer the modern world, the gift of freedom from the hell of our solitary confinement. We can receive Christ’s gift of living together in a common purpose, the gift of living together in shared meaning, in shared lives of caring for others; the gift of living together clothed in the enormous dignity of the sons and daughters of God, engaged in the glorious task of revealing the presence of His kingdom in our world.
Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, victim no longer. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and now lives in you and in me. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead in order that you and I might rise to a new and better and higher life.
Praise the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit,
both now and forever,
the God who is, who was and is yet to come
at the end of the ages.
May Easter’s victory be your blessing, a blessing you can share with your loved ones both now and forever.