Living Christ's Resurrection
Papal Audience - October 23, 2013
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
What has the resurrection of Christ to do with our life as a Catholic? Or simply put, what does the resurrection mean to us? As we are about to reach another liturgical year, our Sunday readings become more eschatological or have something to do with the end of times. This Sunday, we are reminded of the relationship between our lives here on earth and the one that follows. More importantly, as my question indicates, we are asked to reflect on the meaning of Christ’s resurrection in our lives.
In October of 2013, few months after Pope Francis’ inauguration as Pope, I had the privilege to meet him in an audience of about 1.2 million pilgrims in Rome. Before that meeting, I heard about his “ways” and his seemingly “unorthodox style” of running the Catholic Church. And so, seeing him in person was like putting a “face” to a reputation that preceded him. In an article entitled, “The Exclusive Interview with Pope Francis: A Big Heart Open to God” (please see link below for the article), he was asked about how he would see the Church after Pope Benedict XVI. He replied by saying, “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.” He sees the church as a “field hospital” after battle that has the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of faithful. Let me expound this further through this Sunday’s theme:
1. We are people of the Resurrection. Though we live according to the Paschal Mystery of Christ (His passion, death and resurrection), we cannot be stuck in the “passion” and “death” of Christ alone, that is, in our sufferings and pains. We have to live Christ’s resurrection by “rising up” from our sinfulness. We cannot be constantly buried in the tomb of our vices or bad habits. We are to live happy, joyful lives filled with peace and love. How is that possible? One is by constantly experiencing the real presence of the risen Lord manifested in the Eucharist. As the Vatican II document Sacrosanctum Concilum no. 7 clearly points it out, “Christ is present not only in the minister celebrating the Mass, but in the Sacred species of bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ. He is also present in the Word being proclaimed and in the community who sings and prays together.” By recognizing His presence in the Eucharist, we are “lifted up” from our human nature to an experience with the divine.
The Reverend George Alexander tells a profoundly moving story about a woman he met when he was beginning his clinical pastoral education. She was 71 years old. Alexander was 24. “The Lord’s been good to me but my husband’s gone, my children are grown; it’s time to rest, to go home, be with God and with my husband.” Alexander, with the inexperience of youth, thought she was afraid of surgery. So he reassured her. “Oh,” she said, “these are fine doctors and the nurses are great but I’ve had a good life, a full life, I’m ready to go home.” The young pastor-to-be was baffled in the face of her contentment; she was calm. Nurses came to take her to surgery and she asked him to read the 23rd Psalm. He read it, she shouted it and the nurses joined in what became, says Alexander, an unforgettable moment of joy. He later went to see her but the nurses met him, told him, before this elderly woman of Faith could be put to sleep, she went to sleep; she went to be with God. Here is how George Alexander sums up his experience: “I’d listened critically with ears and mind but my heart knew. I named the voice of God fear, accepted the joy in her life and denied her enthusiasm about death. I stood next to eternity and couldn’t accept it.”
If we clearly understood the resurrection of Christ in our lives, we see life in the same way as the woman did in the story. The resurrection of Christ should inspire us to honor our bodies, to keep them holy, pure and free from evil habits, and to respect those with whom we come in contact, rendering them loving and humble service.
2. As people of the resurrection, we offer “living worship” to a living God. By living worship we mean, a dynamic worship. In the Eucharistic celebration, we call it “active participation.” As we recognize the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, we celebrate it also by being present, that is, by being connected to the celebration. How do we participate at Mass? Are we here to “celebrate” the Mass or are we here to simply “attend” Mass as we do when we watch a play or a movie? At times, when I’m outside the Church waiting for people to come out to greet them, I see some people coming right after they received communion without having to finish the entire Mass. Why is that? When we celebrate the resurrection of Christ as it is at Mass, we offer our lives on the altar with repentant and grateful hearts. A grateful heart recognizes the thoughtfulness of the giver, the host. Do you simply leave the host without at least saying goodbye? In the Eucharistic celebration, do you leave Jesus, the host, without being sent as the words, “Go in peace, the Mass is ended” imply?
Anthony de Mello S.J. tells the story of a Muslim holy man who had just finished preaching. A heckler (cynic) from the audience shouted, "Instead of spouting spiritual theories why don't you show us something practical?" Somewhat surprised, the holy man asked, "What kind of practical thing do you want me to show you?" The man, pleased that he had made the speaker uncomfortable and that he was making an impression on the audience, replied, "For instance, show us an apple from the Garden of Paradise." Immediately the holy man bent down and picked up an apple from his shoulder bag and handed it to his questioner. "But this apple is bad on one side," said the man. "Surely a heavenly apple would be perfect." "True," said the Mullah, "but given your present faculties, this is as near to a heavenly apple as you will ever get." How are we to see a perfect apple with imperfect eyes? The same situation confronted the Sadducees in today’s Gospel lesson when they faced Jesus with a ridiculous question on the marital relationship in heaven.
The resurrection of the dead may be hard for us to understand as in a mystery, but one thing is for sure, our lives will be gauged according to how we responded to our particular missions when we were “sent” by Christ into the world. We have been sent essentially “to love” and that is what it takes to worship the living God and to live His resurrection.
The Holy Father, towards the end of his interview when asked about prayer, he answered in a very honest and profound manner, “... And I ask myself [going beyond His passion and death]: ‘What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What should I do for Christ? It is the memory … when He asks us to recall the gifts we have received … It is this memory that makes me His son and that makes me a father, too.”
Together with our Holy Father, let us ask these same questions. If we know that answers to these questions, then I believe we know what Christ’s resurrection mean to our lives. It is not a trick question. It is a question each Catholic has to have an answer!