What came first?

40 days of fasting are over. A time of reflection and new beginnings and more importantly a time of great hope begins. Today is the most important feast day in the Christian Church. Much is given to the run-up to Christmas, mostly in the retail department, but it is really Easter which is significant. On the 25th of December we celebrate a woman giving birth, a miracle in itself if you have ever witnessed it. But that day pales in comparison to what Christianity is really all about, a man rose to life after being dead for nearly three days. This simple fact alone is hard to believe but it is the hinge on the door of Christian belief. Without Easter, Jesus would have been another philosopher in a long line of philosophers who preached good will and love of mankind. When one tacks on the Easter events Jesus  becomes metaphysical and profound. Never before or since has an event such as this taken place in our histories as human beings. I cannot begin to be able to understand it completely. I think that is where faith drops in. Either one believes it or one doesn’t. There is no empirical data to back up the events, but there are logical questions that may help us as to what happened in the graveyard on that first Sunday after the full moon of the vernal equinox.

The gospels talk about it in a way that may lead us to believe. First of all, soldiers were placed by Pilate to guard the tomb of the condemned man, Jesus of Nazareth, ostensibly from grave robbers. They were on duty yet in one of the Gospels the writer says they fell asleep, a capitol offense. Secondly in another Gospel, women discover the empty tomb first. Why is this important? Well with such momentous news, why leave it up to women to carry it? These second class and courageous citizens brought earth-shaking news back to the cowering apostles. Women evangelized the male evangelists! And finally, because the story is so fantastic and without a frame of reference nor precedent it should have died out ages ago, don’t you think? And yet the story grew and grew and people actually chose death over renouncing what they truly believed even though they may have been separated from the events by distance or hundreds of years. And it wasn’t a few who either went to the lions or the firing squad. That’s just food for thought for us agnostics.

So what are we left with after our annual 40 days of refection? Life. Life as we live it is temporary and extremely transitory. There is the promise of another life after death, a hope for the future that begins right here in this life. But my life now is not obsessing over the life after, I still have stuff to do now, in this world. As one gets older, one is faced with fewer and fewer days laid out before him. The time for action is upon us with the little time we have left to breathe. How am I going to live this life now?  This day? Instead of looking up to heaven searching for God with all my holy holys and alleluias and strange sounding “tongues” and waving arms, perhaps I should level my gaze and look into the eyes of my brothers and sisters and try and find God in all things. I know that if I cannot find God in my brothers and sisters whom I can see, I sure as hell won’t find God in a church someplace. Faith alone is not enough. Faith with deeds borne out of love is what it’s all about. And we all know that “love” is an active verb. It’s meant to be given away. In Genesis “God looked on his creation and saw that it was ‘good.'” God didn’t say it was the “best,” just that it was “good.” As a comparative adjective, good is followed by “better” then “best.” Maybe we are to make creation “better” by acknowledging the companionship we all have with each other no matter what or where and with the rest of creation. In our imperfect way we try to love without strings or quid pro quo. It’s not easy, but then attaining things of value rarely are. Yes, we are Easter people.

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way……What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything….
Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
– Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

and so it goes…