Resurrection and Life

November 2, 2019

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“Lazarus, come forth!”

Today, All Souls Day, is the traditional day for commemorating all the “faithful departed.” Since I have a lot of departed family and friends in my life, with a lot of faithfulness among them, it is my practice to go to my local community’s ceremonial commemoration of all such each year.

This morning, unexpectedly, a Catalan priest whom I had never seen before, hit me with one of those simple-but-rich insights that I thought was far better than most entire sermons, and I stored it up to think about later. Speaking of Martha’s comment to Jesus about the death of his friend, her brother Lazarus, she said, “If you had been here, he would not have died.” Her sister Mary later affirmed the same thing separately. This preacher, whose name I don’t even know, then said, “For those of us who carry the spirit of Jesus with us, he is in fact ‘here’.” Needless death is just that: unnecessary. He may have said it better than that in Catalan, but my English more or less represents how I heard it. “Death has no more dominion over him,” wrote Saint Paul, and by extension, no dominion over us. At least it need not have, in many profound senses.

As I said, this thought was more than sufficient to repay my longish early-morning walk to the remarkably lovely chapel where this was taking place. But he went on. We need not limit ourselves to only one death and one hoped-for resurrection. We can treat other things in our life as “little deaths” from which we can, if we are willing, be resurrected: breakups, breakdowns, divorces, bankruptcies, addictions, depressions, and even things that are considered trivial but can build up to weights that bring us down. We can lie in the grave with these things, or we can use the means that we are offered (and, to Christians, there is a powerful one in the life, death, and continued life of Jesus) to rise up renewed and ready to start again.

On the walk home, it also occurred to me that this phenomenon of death and resurrection is also available to more than just discrete individuals—to families, communities both religious and secular, meaningful associations of all kinds (even football teams!). It happens that I live in a small country that has been seeking resurrection ever since a hostile takeover of it in 1714 by an absolute monarchy explicitly intent on wiping from the earth its ancient political and cultural traditions, including its very language. Against all odds, including much fire and sword, repression that is seeing a current increase in savagery, and periods of almost giving up, glimmers of resurrection have continued and are, in recent weeks, flourishing unprecedentedly among the masses of young people of Catalonia who are tired of seeing the unfulfilled longings, and sometimes real sufferings, of their parents and grandparents.

Without pressing the generalizations too far, I feel, with Saints Mary and Martha of Bethany (not to mention their brother Lazarus, who still had to face more life—and, no doubt, more troubles), that a means is available to us, in which all that is good and meaningful need not suffer definitive death if we choose to use it.

Link: The Death of Lazarus, according to Saint John the Evangelist

 

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