Easter Sunday April 20, 2014 10 Am Liturgy

Easter Sunday
April 20, 2014
10 Am Liturgy
J.A. Loftus, S.J.
Professor Sandra Schneiders is a distinguished student of the
sacred scriptures, particularly the gospel of John. Her latest
collection of essays is called Jesus Risen in Our Midst (just released
last week). She begins one chapter with a delightful story about
her mentor, friend and equally distinguished biblical
commentator, Fr. Raymond Brown, S.S. (incidentally also a former
professor of mine).
In a meeting shortly before Fr. Brown’s death (in fact this
meeting turned out to be their last), it seems they got talking about
death and its inevitability and pain. Ray then said you know many
people ask me if having finished the huge volume on the Death of
the Messiah, and having published years before an equally gigantic
and exhaustive book called the Birth of the Messiah, was I now
going to write about the resurrection of the Messiah? And then he
said: no, I think I’d rather do that research face-to-face.
Sandra then says her foolishness in writing about the
resurrection is dedicated to him whose wisdom forbade him to
even attempt it.
Fr. Brown And Sister Sandra are not alone. Another
distinguished biblical scholar, Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright, said in
his magisterial 800 page tome on the resurrection and Easter
experience: “I am convinced that most people, including most
practicing Christians, are muddled and misguided on this topic and
that this muddle produces quite serious mistakes in our thinking,
our praying, our liturgies, our practice, and perhaps particularly
our mission to the world.”
As if we need even more evidence of the density of what we
celebrate here this morning, a final authority, no mean theologian
himself, and now Pope Emeritus said: “Anyone approaching the
resurrection accounts in the belief that he knows what rising from
the dead means will inevitably misunderstand those accounts and
will then dismiss them as meaningless.”
A wise Presbyterian minister, Frederick Buechner, wrote,
“When it comes to just what happened, there can be no certainty.
That something unimaginable happened, there can be no doubt.”
(Beyond Words: Daily readings in the ABC’s of Faith)
Too much of human history has been shaped by this story.
But we in the 21st century are in a unique and somewhat bizarre
position because we are post-Enlightenment people. Indeed we
are even “scientific” people with new cosmologies, new astronomy
principles, and a radically new and sophisticated understanding of
the physical laws of the universe. We now have at the very least
what Schneiders calls an “imaginative implausibility” to deal with.
People simply do not rise from the dead. Period. Full-stop! Or so
many of us think. And so we have to suspend our disbelief and just
wonder what we’re doing here this morning. (A well-chosen word,
if there ever was one! Wonder.)
And yet artists like Gene Rodenbury, the creator of Star Trek,
and C.S. Lewis, the creator of the Narnia Chronicles, both could
envision parallel universes where real bodies exist and live but in
some strange new ways. Remember: “Beam me up Scotty.” Artists
are always ahead of their time.
And somewhat ironically, in the early part of the 21st century,
serious scientists, particle physicists and astronomers, and
mathematicians, seem to have discovered real parallel universes.
And the long elusive Higgs boson of last year’s headlines seems
now also real. And we have even discovered probably habitable
worlds very much like our own orbiting distant stars (that was
released by NASA just two days ago). Even our Pope Emeritus
refers to the resurrection as “space travel of the heart” and
describes whatever happened as an “evolutionary leap,” that
reveals a “new dimension of reality.” What’s going on here?
Imagine with me for a moment that our post-Enlightenment
“imaginative implausibility” may be slowly melting. Stranger
things have happened. And perhaps stranger things are still
happening. After all we think we do know for certain that all
matter is really just energy—and vice-versa. Energy and matter do
shift, and drift, and…who knows what else is yet to come in our
discovery of this vast imaginative universe we share?
Listen to other artists like the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins
who swore a century ago, ‘there lives the dearest, deep-down
freshness.’ And begged us to let God Easter in us. The word, Easter,
for Hopkins, becomes a verb not a noun. God today is still
Eastering throughout the world.
As pastor Buechner says elsewhere, “He rose. A few say they
saw him briefly and talked to him. If it is true, there is nothing left
to say. If it is not true, there is nothing left to say.” Truth is not the
same as fact. It is after all, all a question of imagination. That’s
what scientists do, imagine. That’s what poets do, imagine. That’s
what faith does, imagine.
The implausibility may be shrinking. But either way, our
song today, this Easter, is simple and very old, and shared by
billions of our fellow citizens on earth. “He is Risen! Alleluia!”
May God continue to Easter in us with even more unimaginable
Beauty and Life. Peace!