Seventh and last in a Lenten Series
WRITING THIS SERIES of columns based on the insights that Father Ronald Rolheiser has offered in his “The Passion and the Cross” (Franciscan Media, 2015) has been a wonderful experience for me. I feel as though I have just taken a course in theology. Better, I feel as though I have just taken a course in Christian spirituality.
I cannot praise Father Rolheiser’s relatively small volume too much. It is the type of book that might change people’s lives. Every time I read or re-read pages of “The Passion and the Cross,” it seemed as though insights leaped at me from the pages. My most basic reaction to what Father Rolheiser has written is Christian joy. The good news is so good that it is impossible for us to appreciate it adequately. God’s love for us is always greater and more wonderful than we can imagine.
Probably my favorite chapter is the fifth one, entitled “The Resurrection – Every Grave Opens Up!” Pointing out that the resurrection of Jesus has many dimensions, Father Rolheiser writes:
“At one level, it was a physical event. The dead body of Jesus was physically raised, the cosmic universe at its deepest level suddenly had a new set of laws, and the very atoms of this universe, as nature first arranged them, were rearranged. Something radically new, physically new, as radical and new as the original creation, appeared in history. This aspect should never be, as it recently has been, understated.” (p. 85)
Father Rolheiser’s judgment that this aspect has recently been understated resonates with me because this is not an aspect of the resurrection that I think about frequently. The physical universe is different because of Jesus’ resurrection. With Jesus’ resurrection something completely new has happened in nature. Death is conquered and new life has appeared.
Shortly after re-reading this paragraph in the book, I read the following:
“What the resurrection of Jesus promises is that things can always be new again. It is never too late to start over. Nothing is irrevocable. No betrayal is final. No sin is unforgivable. Every form of death can be overcome. There isn’t any loss that can’t be redeemed. Every day is virgin. There is really no such thing as old age.” (p. 102)
For me, at my calendar age, the news that there really is no such thing as old age comes to me as marvelous good news!
In the closing pages of his book, Father Rolheiser suggests many ways that Jesus’ resurrection should influence our daily lives. There are too many for me to mention but what Father Rolheiser has done for me – and I hope for many readers – is to motivate me to never stop relating what I believe about Jesus to my daily life. The Good News is a treasure that can always reveal new jewels.
Surrounded as we often are by “bad news,” Father Rolheiser’s book has helped me to see – again and more deeply – that there is no possible comparison between Jesus’ Good News and the “bad news” that often surrounds us. God’s love outweighs all evils.
Disappointment is a possible reaction to some of the bad news, but I have come to believe that discouragement is never a proper response. The Holy Spirit – Jesus’ Spirit – breathes where He will, making all things new. I hope I never forget this truth. It is a truth that is at the center of our faith, at the center of the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection.
Stressing that we should translate our belief in Jesus’ resurrection into how we experience our daily lives, Father Rolheiser encourages us to see each day as new, as an invitation from God, calling us to allow our past mistakes to be past. He writes:
“No matter what we’ve done, our future is forever pregnant with wonderful new possibility. Resurrection is not just a question of one day after death, rising from the dead but it is also about daily rising daily from the many mini-graves within which we so often find ourselves. … Like Jesus, we too will have our crucifixions. More than one grave awaits us. Yet our faith in the resurrection invites us precisely to live beyond these. As John Shea so aptly put it: What the resurrection teaches us is not how to live, but how to live again, and again, and again!” (p. 103)