Let There Be Light - Again!
He manifested himself alive + Whether we believe or not + we belong to God + whether we feel it or not + He exists + He is my self + He is my Lord + and in the moments that all seem dark to us + even in the heart of times where God does not exist for us + God does exist + as He was for the Prophets + the Apostles and the Saints + so is He for us + as small, sinful and humble as we can be ++ When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a burning furnace and a flaming torch passed between the parts ++ (A Monk)
The first Day of the new creation. That’s today. Easter begins the new and eternal Day that springs forth from the dew of Baptism. All four Gospels begin their account of the resurrection with this line: “Early in the morning, on the first day of the week…” Genesis stylizes “the beginning” as a week. God creates in six days. He rests on the seventh. He contemplates the beauty of his work. He delighted in it. But our first parents – whom Genesis calls Adam and Eve – turned from their Creator on the seventh day. In Adam, we all sinned. Adam and Eve’s first offspring, Cain and Abel, ended their brotherhood in Cain’s murder of Abel. Misery and guilt begin the tragic tale of history. But God intervened. The Father sent the Son. He became Man, with the innocent Virgin’s consent. He called together a Church. Then, the God-Man suffered and died to save the human race. Then came the eighth Day. “When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a burning furnace and a flaming torch passed between the parts.” Early in the morning of the eighth Day – or the first Day of a new week – Light flashed from the tomb. When the women entered the tomb to anoint Jesus’ dead body, they heard two radiant lights speak to them: “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He’s not here. He’s risen” (Luke 24:5-6).
In the beginning God said, “Let there be light!” Angels of light. Darkness was separated from the light. The light was the first thing that God pronounced “good” and “beautiful.” “God saw how beautiful it was.” As for the darkness, God was silent. We learn from creation that God made all things good and beautiful for man’s happiness. The perfection of creation is man’s involvement in the Trinity: God delights in us, and we delight in Him.
Darkness poisoned the light and our delight in what God had made. Themes not of God’s devising were woven into the symphony of creation. The ring leader, the Dark Angel, lied and deceived. Man fell for it and revolted. Grace was lost. Man felt shame. He bequeathed sin, suffering and death to his progeny. Life became burdensome. Everyone’s life is now woven into the tragic tales of history. Adam’s fall deprived man of God’s rest. “They are a people whose hearts go astray and they do not know my ways. So I swore in my anger, they shall not enter into my rest” (Psalm 95).
But today, something new happened. We’re baptized into a new dawn. Christ is risen. Light conquers dark. Jesus leads us to a new Sabbath, a new Rest. He invites us to contemplate a new beauty, as He intended from the beginning. Today begins a new week, a new Day. The Risen Lord says, “The old order has passed away. Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:4-5)! The Risen Christ is talking about heaven, which is beyond this world, yet hidden in this world. It’s hidden deeply in the souls of the baptized. By rising from the dead, Christ reveals the meaning of his words to Pontius Pilate: “My Kingdom is not of this world.” The resurrection makes hope real. And it’s all ours in Baptism, the pearl of great price. Before death, heaven is hidden, yet known only by faith, hope and love.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight – we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:7-10).
Ask yourself: How much stake do I put in the promises of Christ? There is only one inappropriate response: polite interest. If Christ is risen, then everything that He did and said makes a complete claim on our lives.
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
In the 4th century, Antony, an orphaned Egyptian youth, attended Mass. He heard this Gospel: “If you wish to be perfect, go sell what you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come follow me” (Matthew 19:21). Those words of Christ made a claim on his entire life. And so, he sold everything to follow Christ. He became a monk. He was among the first of the great desert monks in ancient Christianity, second only to St. Paul the Hermit, beginning a monastic tradition which still continues, hidden in the world’s remaining wildernesses. Why would a young man take Christ’s words to heart, so literally, so radically? “More torturous than all else is the human heart. Who can understand it” (Jeremiah 17:9)? Antony’s response to the Gospel was not inspired by polite interest. It was an honest and unmitigated response to faith: Jesus is risen from the dead. If I wish to rise from the dead, my whole life must be conformed to Christ.
This doesn’t mean that we should all become monks. It means we should all be Christians. The monk is a metaphor for the calling given to every baptized person: a radical following of Jesus Christ. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). This applies to everyone, in one way or another. There should be nothing “ordinary” about the ordinary Christian.
This means there is a direct and necessary connection between faith and morality. We live by what we believe. If Christ is risen, then the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount and the teachings of the Church are true and trustworthy guideposts for those who wish to be immortalized in joy and rise from the dead.
There’s a tendency to separate faith from morals. It’s the idea that we can have faith in Christ without it having any impact on our life choices. But the Risen One said otherwise. The Gospel makes a moral claim on our life. The foundation of this new life is the moral teachings of Christ and his Body, the Church. If we don’t accept these teachings, then, as St. Paul says, “the Cross will be emptied of its power” (1 Corinthians 1:17).
When we repent and confess our sins, when we let the Holy Spirit purify our hearts, the power of Christ’s death and resurrection takes hold of us. We are given the grace to contemplate the goodness and beauty of the new creation. We can gaze beyond the troubles of time and into the peace of a blessed realm in the light of eternity. We are given the ability to see God in heaven after we die. Through Baptism and Confirmation, the power of Christ’s death and resurrection is applied to us, personally. We are made new. We have the grace to prepare for our own resurrection from the dead at the world’s end. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly bodies to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things in subjection to himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21).
During Easter Mass, we renew our baptismal promises. Think about them. Did you really say what you mean and mean what you say? Reject Satan. His empty promises. The false glamour of sin. Acknowledge God the Father as Creator. Jesus Christ as his Son and our Redeemer. And the Holy Spirit as our Sanctifier and the “Lord and giver of life.” Let the power of Christ’s death and resurrection take hold of you, again. Like St. Antony, take Christ’s words to heart, radically: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” And let there be Light – again!
He manifested himself alive + Whether we believe or not + we belong to God + whether we feel it or not + He exists + He is my self + He is my Lord + and in the moments that all seem dark to us + even in the heart of times where God does not exist for us + God does exist + as He was for the Prophets + the Apostles and the Saints + so is He for us + as small, sinful and humble as we can be ++ When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a burning furnace and a flaming torch passed between the parts ++
Fr. Frederick Edlefsen, Pastor