In this final part of my Easter season blogs on resurrection, I continue to discuss the gifts that resurrection brings into our lives, here and now. In Part IV, we saw how Christ’s death and resurrection enables us to accept God’s invitation and offer ourselves back to God in the liturgy, especially in the sacrament of eucharist. The eucharist is an encounter between humanity and God in which, through the Holy Spirit, we become so completely united with Christ that, like the true vine, there is no telling where Christ ends and we begin. The transformational power of the Holy Spirit is available to us in all the sacraments.
Sofia Cavalletti writes:
In the sacraments, the encounter with God is made concrete not only in words but also in perceptible or tangible elements (water, bread, wine, and so on). The entire Bible could be defined as the history of encounter between humanity and God.
The perfect encounter, though, occurs only in Jesus, the greatest gift of God to sanctify us. But Jesus is also a human being, and as such he is the greatest manifestation of human love for God. In the humanity of Jesus, the meeting between God and humanity – God’s gift and our response – is perfect. This perfect encounter is meant to spread and to fill the whole of creation with its fullness. The resurrection is physical; therefore, the spreading of this life must also be concrete, hence the sacraments. See Sofia Cavalletti, The History of the Kingdom of God; Liturgy and the Building of the Kingdom, (Liturgy Training Publications, Chicago, 2013), p. 31.
St. Paul tells us that the power that raised Christ does not stop at him but brings forth life in the Christian. The life of the risen Christ changes the very nature of our existence now, in this life. In Galatians 2:20, Paul writes, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” In Baptism the gifts of resurrection come to us immediately. A decisive change occurs: “union with Christ in his death and resurrection, birth into God’s family the church, forgiveness of sins, and new life in the Holy Spirit.” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 848. See Leonel L. Mitchell, Praying Shapes Believing; a Theological Commentary on the Book of Common Prayer, (Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, PA, 1985), p. 88)
As the Death of Christ is not the end in itself but leads to the Resurrection, so our being ‘baptized in the death of Christ’ leads to a newness of life. (The History of the Kingdom of God, Part 2, p. 46)
Through the sacraments, human encounter with God spreads and fills creation. There are other gifts of resurrection that are available to us every day. These gifts of the Spirit are as close as our heart and as ordinary as breathing; yet, in the rush of life, they can easily be missed. I offer here some Scripture citations for your own contemplation.
The gift of Christ’s peace. See John 20:19-21.
The gift of faith. We believe in Jesus without having seen him or his burial garments. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29 This fulfills the prophecy of Hosea 2:23: A people that was formerly not God’s people has said, “You are my God.” See John 10:16.
And how does Christ’s resurrection reach us? How do all these gifts come to us? Through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Read John 20:22. Raymond Brown writes:
Just as in the first creation God’s breath brought into existence a human being in his image and likeness, so now Jesus’ gift of his own Holy Spirit makes the disciples God’s children in the likeness of the Son. . . . the breath of God in Genesis gave life: the breath of Jesus gives eternal life. (A Risen Christ in Eastertime, pp. 76-77)
During the upcoming season of Pentecost, this blog will look at the gifts of the Holy Spirit that descend to us on that great feast day.
In Parts I and II of Why Resurrection?, I discussed how resurrection, central to the faith of persecuted early Christians, was displaced over time by theories of the incarnation that emphasized Christ’s death more than his resurrection as the instrument of our salvation. The emergence of rationalism and scientific research gave rise to new myths of salvation through human effort, making it more difficult for modern people to talk about resurrection. Discussion of resurrection has often been limited to musings about what really happened to Jesus’ body, side-stepping entirely the theological meaning of resurrection. There is a need to recover resurrection as a sign by which Christians can orient our lives within God’s plan of salvation for all. We do this not by rejecting science and rational thought, but by opening ourselves to experience the power of resurrection in our lives, a force which exists within and among us, yet is beyond all human imagining. God has given us aids to help us experience this force: the resurrection accounts in the Bible, the liturgy, sacraments, and all the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. God has given us eyes to see and ears to hear. God grant us the grace to use them well.