April 7, 2013
EASTER II (C)
When the doors were locked … Jesus came and stood in their midst….
– John 20: 19
The religious philosopher Eric Butterworth once was confronted with an extremely difficult life situation. He felt as if he had a tremendous weight on his shoulders. He looked everywhere for help, asking everyone he knew for insight, trying somehow to get a thought that would lead him to a solution. Leafing through the Bible his eyes came to rest on the words, “It came to pass.” A common phrase in Scripture & in itself, almost meaningless. But Eric kept looking at the words. Suddenly, in his words, “A light dawned. This experience I’m having didn’t come to stay, it came to pass. I began to realize that the problem hadn’t come to burden me, but to bring me something I needed for my growth.”
“Do not be anxious about your life,” said our Lord in the sermon on the mount. Whatever difficulty may confront us, it didn’t come to stay, it came to pass. If this sinks in, we may discover that the burden is lifted. The problem may still be there but the pressure is relieved. Very often, a solution presents itself – as if the anxiety had been keeping it from us. The Easter message is that death, too, didn’t come to stay. It came to pass for Jesus, & for those united with Him in his death by baptism.
In the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians, St. Paul confronts the crucial questions that arise whenever we talk about resurrection. Every one of us is going to die. This physical body of ours is going to disintegrate, to disappear. It will be ashes to ashes & dust to dust. Some of us, indeed, may already be feeling pretty dusty & ashen. Paul raises the question, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” His answer is based entirely on trust in God. He who has created us & sustained us in countless different ways can also be trusted in this matter.
Look around you, says Paul. Every single form of life has a body appropriate to it, whether it be plants or animals or even celestial bodies. In other words, the God who is great enough to create bodies appropriate for life HERE can be trusted to give us a spiritual body appropriate for our NEXT form of existence.
A comedian tells the story of a friend who doesn’t diet & never gains an ounce. He eats six meals a day. An average meal consists of three steaks, four pounds of potatoes, three hamburgers, an apple pie, a malted milk, an ice cream soda & a hot fudge Sunday. His weight never changes – 475 pounds!
Paul doesn’t presume to tell us whether, in his spiritual body, that man will have lost weight or still be 475 lbs. All he is saying is that the God revealed to us in Jesus can be trusted to give us one. When Jesus appeared to His disciples after the resurrection, they were experiencing His spiritual body. That is why they didn’t recognize Him at first, but the physical situation of locked doors was no barrier to His being present to them.
Paul describes it, of course, as a mystery. We are dealing with a truth so profound that we will never plumb its depths in this life. Paul doesn’t give us answers on life after death that are all packaged & neatly wrapped. But he does want us to understand that when our earthly body is no longer appropriate, God will give us one that is – a ‘spiritual body’ as he puts it.
When Jesus came & stood before the disciples that first Easter night, they were in great fear. “Peace be with you,” He said. “At the sight of the Lord the disciples rejoiced” because they understood at last, beyond all doubt, that God CAN be trusted. He can be trusted to provide each one of us with a spiritual body that EVEN NOW is being prepared for our final journey. So guess what – WE are participating in that preparation. We have a hand in what our spiritual body will be like, be it ugly or beautiful. That should give us some food for thought. AMEN!