Friday, April 13, 2012

God Has Come To The Place Where I Am

There is no Easter without the Cross.

We sometimes hear these words spoken as a kind of exhortation and warning, as if to say, "Don't think it's gonna be so easy. Joy comes through sacrifices. You have to sacrifice. You have to suffer." Fair enough. That's certainly true.

But let's not reduce the mystery of the Resurrection to an ethical reflection. The Resurrection, before anything else, is an event. Indeed, the Cross and Resurrection together are the real event in the world that gives hope to our lives.

Most of us know very little about real joy, but we know a great deal about suffering. Our lives are open wounds. We are all suffering. The horizon of all our human hopes is frustration. So many human projects are designed to distract us from this fact with temporary satisfactions, or evade it with subtle ideologies. It's the survival instinct: we can't bear to look our own suffering in the face, and yet--sooner or later--it will impose itself upon us, and we will withdraw into resentment and bitterness, or perhaps yield to it with a dignified resignation.

If someone says to us, "God loves you," we might be inclined to reply (not without reason) "What does that mean?"

Easter, without the Cross, is just someone else's triumph. It's just another distracting dream about a happiness that doesn't exist.

My desire is for the fullness of life. My experience so often seems to suggest that there is no way to get there, that I am trapped in suffering and frustration, and that the best that life can offer is distractions.

Easter, however, proclaims that God has done something in history, and that He is doing something in my life. He was crucified and died and rose from the dead to begin a New Creation.

The Cross is good news, because the Cross means that God has come to the place where I am. That place is suffering, and above all the suffering caused by the fact that I have made choices that have irrevocably screwed up my life: I have sinned! He has united Himself to me in that place of solitude, and from there He has Risen. This is what it means to say, "God loves you." It means He has united Himself with my whole life, He has taken all the depths of me, and is even now working to awaken my heart and penetrate inside my sorrow and my misery and the guilt that I don't want to face. He is here, creating a new possibility for my freedom, a new possibility for love.

And He's not an abstract God, or some purely interior divine force. He has a human face. He is Jesus, a man. He lives through a people in history, who He has "assembled"--the ekklesia. I don't have to make it up. It's real. It's here. It's a gift. It's a path that can be followed, and I can begin now, because He is present in the place where I am; He has penetrated the depths of my suffering and my guilt and by His love He is creating in me the power to change and be Love.

He is Risen from the dead. Alleluia!