Live resurrection now

By Joseph Musendami, C.Ss.R

Joseph MusendamiJoseph Musendami is a Zimbabwean Redemptorist who joined the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer in 2006. Presently his mission as a deacon is among fellow parishioners and youth. This outreach takes him among the most abandoned and the poor, many of whom live in tents, under plastic shelters, and in poorly built houses without plumbing. Joseph says, ‘In spite of their hand-to-mouth existence these people live-out the resurrection of Christ to a degree greater than people in affluent places.’ Joseph will be ordained a priest in July, 2010
Christ is risen! Indeed, he is risen!Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?
- 1 Cor 15.55

Jesus the Christ is the Lord of life. He is the Lord, not only of our lives but, of all life. He is the Light (John 8.12) and he is the resurrection (John 11.25). As Lord he has subjugated even death. Thus, it makes sense to talk of Jesus as the ‘resurrection’, for it is in resurrection that death is defeated. Christ is the light that conquers death. He is the one who has conquered all the unknowns that surround death including the great abyss that follows death.

At last the darkness has been conquered and we now know that beyond death there is life. He who is “the first born of all creation” (Col 1.15b) through whom we were created is, in his resurrection, “the first born from the dead” (Col 1.18c). 

Behold, there was a surprise. A real surprise!

Our agreed on starting point is that Jesus was human and as a human being he had to die. He had to die! And this he did. After his death he was dead, dead and surely dead like dead. It was finished. But, behold, there was a surprise. A real surprise!

Early in the morning Mary went to anoint, not the resurrected body of Jesus, but the dead one. She was petrified to see the stone that covered the tomb had been removed. She ran and reported the incident to the apostles not as a resurrection account, but she was opening a docket of theft: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,” she said, “and we don’t know where they have put him” (John 20.2b). It is only after great weeping and most importantly the calling of her name by Jesus that Mary encountered the risen Lord, who had to die first for him to be resurrected.

This reminds me of a story told of Wellington and his allies fighting against Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo. The people of England, keen to know what was happening in the war, asked to be informed on the proceedings through a system of semaphore signals.  On June 18, 1815, late in the day, the signal flashed on the tower of Winchester Cathedral “W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N--- D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D”. Fog made it very difficult to read the sign and soon the news of defeat spread quickly all over the country. Imagine the amount of shame, dejection and great depression that seized the nation.

It was just like the two disciples going to Emmaus who mourned, “Our hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free” (Luke 24.21). Thus their hopes were shattered. In a moment Jesus began to explain to them that what seemed to be the end was in fact the fulfilment of the old and the beginning of the new. It was not the end but the beginning. Once Jesus the light shone upon them they began to see clearly.

The good news spread all over the land

Anyway, back to our story. As the fog drifted away the Englishmen who were lamentably looking at the semaphore signal message started to cheer up as the letters of the message continued to emerge. The message had four words not two. The complete message was “W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N
- - - D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D - - - T-H-E- - -E-N-E-M-Y ”. Sooner than one could realise, the good news spread all over the land and sorrow was turned into joy, what seemed like a defeat turned into a victory.

Christ’s death on the Good Friday is therefore only half of the story; the full story is that he rose from the dead and in his glorified life he will never know death again. Yes, his death seemed to be the end and his total humiliation, but it was necessary just as the incarnation. Through the incarnation, and his desire to redeem humanity, God became human. Gregory of Nazianzan understood how encompassing this desire was when he said, “What is not assumed is not redeemed.” In Jesus God assumed even death so that those who were dead may be redeemed. Jesus was killed and became dead so that the dead may be like him –alive. He took away the sting of death by letting us know that death is not the end but a transformation.

Now that Jesus has conquered death and darkness it means that humanity can live in a way that goes hand-in-hand with his resurrection. But people do not have to wait until they are dead to enjoy the effects of Christ’s resurrection. They can live it here and now. Society also in 2010, by providing all people with access to resources, to education, health care, and occupational training can also begin living the resurrection now. “This is the day the Lord has made”, this very day. This is time to end injustice.

Phillips Brooks had it right when he said, “The great Easter truth is not that we are to live newly after death, but that we are to be new here and now by the power of the resurrection; not so much that we are to live forever, as that we are to, and may, live nobly now because we are to live forever.” Eternity does not begin with death. We are already part of eternity. When we are raised in Christ we retain our personhood, so it is better to polish it here on earth for heaven or hell begins here.

In the dirt the rooster sings all day

Christ’s resrrection shows the world how to live, not only in the hope of spring, but forever in spring though it may feel like winter or summer. I work among people who are poor and who live in shanties. Though they lead lives which are way below the poverty datum line, I have seen them more cheerful in these unwanted places than people living in rich places. Just as the rooster sings all day in the dirt, is it not living the resurrection of Christ to be able to smile and sing songs while surrounded by life’s travails?

Christ’s resurrection reveals to the world that life’s problems and challenges need not enslave us, for everything has been subjected to him by the Father. We should not mistake what enslaves us for the master who leads us.

I remember meeting a man who had had gone three days without eating. He wasn’t fasting; he just had nothing to eat. He was awaiting food portions from Caritas (a Catholic aid agency). Instead of looking pitiful, gloomy and hungry, he was happy and jovial although skinny. I was surprised, so I asked him, “Why are you so relaxed and happy yet you have no food?” Then he said, “I hope Caritas is bringing food tomorrow. It is important for me to live the hope as if it were today so that I can see the hope being fulfilled tomorrow. Otherwise, if I do not live the hope today I will die before the hope is realised.”

Let us live resurrection now

However we might live out the fullness of resurrection in the next life, let’s live resurrection now. That way we will see the present realised in the next life. It is all about a new way of being. A new way of being human! Morning has broken ...