Friday, February 22, 2008

Resurrection makes all the difference in a world of dust

Resurrection makes all the difference in a world of dust
By Bishop Robert Vasa

BEND — The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Upon those who dwell in the land of gloom a light has shown. This is a theme which is much more reminiscent of Christmas than it is of Lent and yet for us who believe in the Resurrection we must acknowledge that we live in the Light of Christ. I do not think that we recognize sufficiently just how important this Light of Christ is in our lives.

As I talked to the young people at Hood River this weekend I realized just how much we take the Light of Christ, the Light of the Resurrection, for granted. We acknowledge that 79 percent to 80 percent of the people living in Oregon are unchurched. This means that they have no direct affiliation with any church group, Christian or otherwise. Since the Resurrection of the Lord and hence our own future resurrection is part and parcel of what it means to be a Christian, I would suspect that those who are not Christian have no belief in the Lord’s Resurrection and have no reason to anticipate their own. While I may not be fully conscious of the Lord’s Resurrection at all times I do know that hope in His Resurrection and thus hope in my own future resurrection is literally the reason why I get up each day, the reason why I go to work, the reason I strive to do that which is right and true and good. The Lord’s Resurrection needs to mean something very significant for each of us.

I cannot even begin to imagine the bleakness and the darkness of a world in which Christ has no place and produces no effect. A world without Christ is a dark, gloomy and hopeless world indeed. Yet, there are millions of souls who have no idea of a proper Lord of the universe. Who or what fills this void, this emptiness, this darkness? The Holy Father would suggest that attempts are made to fill this vacuum with a lot of lesser, incomplete and passing hopes. On Ash Wednesday we are rightly reminded: Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return. This is a very distressing thought. If I am only dust and if I am to return to only dust, then nothing that I think, do or say in the relatively brief course of my existence has any real significance whatsoever. As I told the young people, if everything that we see and touch is ultimately turning back to dust, and it is, then the only difference between a rich man and a poor man is the size of the remaining pile of dirt. So often we forget that most of the things on which we set our hearts and strive so ardently to achieve are nothing more than a future pile of dirt.

Fortunately the Resurrection changes all of that. Now, as a result and as a direct consequence of the Lord’s Resurrection we have an assurance that there is something truly worth living for and even worth dying for. Christ is our Light and more than our Light; a huge beacon showing us the way to live here and now with our minds and hearts set on the things of eternity. This makes, or at least ought to make, all the difference in the world.

Certainly we need to have concerns about the needs and duties associated with this life. These we must never neglect but in light of the Resurrection our attitude toward all that we do and possess and work for must necessarily be different. Now we must have as if not having. Now we must still work and yet not be anxious about the outcome. Now we must stand as peacefully and patiently in the face of trial as we do in the face of honors. We must remember that neither trials nor honors alter the fact of the Lord’s Resurrection. Neither trials nor honors have the power to void the Lord’s Resurrection. In fact, for most of us, trials bring us closer to the Lord and His Resurrection than honors and so, as people of Light, we should actually prefer the trials to the honors. I can assure you that we are not yet at this state of spiritual development, but I hope that we can at least imagine the possibility.

The prophecy of Isaiah is that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. We are to be the people who have seen a great Light. We are to be the people who remember the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. We are to be the people who waited with the Apostles for that coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We are to be the people who live out the reality of the Lord’s Resurrection in the smallest details of our daily lives. We are to be people of hope who recognize that we are dust and returning to dust but who also know that we are beloved of God and destined, by the grace of God, for glory with the Lord. When we become more fully that kind of people then not only will Christ be the Light of our lives but we in turn will be a light shining on a lamp stand, a city set on a hill beckoning to others to come to the Light.

The trip to Hood River on a gloriously sunny day made it easy to see how one could get “stuck” in the attractiveness and appealingly beautiful material world. Mount Hood alone, magnificently cloaked with abundant blankets of snow, shown dazzlingly white. Mount Adams was impossible to miss and its grandeur impossible to escape. We, as much as those who do not believe in the Resurrection, cannot fail to be attracted and enticed by this alluring beauty. It is good that we are able to rejoice in and enjoy these natural beauties but we can never forget that their true beauty lies in the fact that they hint at something beyond themselves. They hint at someone infinitely more beautiful and infinitely more enduring. Instead of making us feel at home and “contented” these beauties should foster within us a hunger and an ache for that which only God can give. These beautiful experiences should foster in our hearts a longing for Him who is the ultimate and true Light, the ultimate and true beauty, the ultimate and final destiny. They need to remind us of Him for whom we long.

Our season of Lent is that time when we call to mind ever so vividly the depth of the Lord’s love manifested in His suffering for us and that time when we rejoice anew in the remembering of His, and our, Resurrection.

© 2002-2008, Catholic Sentinel

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