02 April 2013

It's Easter: Stop Being Afraid

Why are Christians so afraid?  I’ve asked myself this question over the past several weeks, months – and years.  For a group of people who purport to have been saved – saved from a fiery death of eternal torment – one might think that a self-possessed joy would be their operative state of being, a veritable glow cast around the faces of believers as they went about their daily routine.  The reason for such a joy would be simple: there would be no routine.  Surely tasks would be completed on a daily basis, many the same day after day, yet the very nub of Christianity, its least common denominator, its roots, stem from the belief that Jesus is risen from the dead.  Resurrexit sicut dixit! He is risen as he said he would be!  There is no routine in the Kingdom – even when one has only one foot within its boundaries (or even a toe).  The very idea that the Christian life would or could be boring is only predicated on the dastardly assumption that it’s ever been tried.  Search the annals of Sacred Scripture and the lives of the Saints: did they seem bored?  Think of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, depressed and defeated, fearful and dragging themselves back to the routine.  That’s the same sense one gathers from a great number of Christians, apparently engaged in the long, fearful walk back to a former home.  Christians are afraid and the only response is routine.  Yet, the real punch of the Emmaus story stems from its conclusion.  The Lord is alive; we do not need to be afraid any longer.

The reason for such fear, it appears, is both terrifying simple and devastatingly complex.  Bound up are we in ideological parlor games of gender and language, power and authority, orthodoxy and heterodoxy, we forget that the fundamental Christian message – the true kerygma – is freedom from the fear which comes from sin and death wrought by the Paschal Mystery.  The Passover has been completed finally and above all history: Christ has passed through the waters; so has the Christian into new life. 

Of course, these two theological concepts – sin and death – remain woven into a fallen world.  Let’s not forget that.  Sin is real and death is real.  There is no disputing that.  Look around.  Still, in the final account, we have for ourselves a savior from which all life flows: the living water has been provided to us.  The battle has been won.  Yes, we Christians fight a rearguard action here on earth, as sin and death grin with malfeasance believing that they have won final victory.  They only think that because in their own self-absorption they are so self-aggrandized, so impervious to the presence of grace, that they carry on merrily, believing that the war is fought and decided decisively in their favor. 

The believer, however, knows this isn’t true.  Or at least he should.  Christ has died; Christ has risen.  Christ is indeed in the process of coming again.  Nevertheless, the prevailing air of Christianity steeps itself in fear – of the liberals, the conservatives, the Traditionalists, the feminists, oh no! --- and forgets the point.  Sin and death have no fear because they do not know the battle is over.  Humans continue to fear because they have been co-opted by sin and death, and are convinced – inexplicably yet consistently – that the battle continues.  We continue to force ourselves into the unenviable position from which Christ came to save us.  This is, perhaps, the darkest and deepest irony of sin – it convinces us of the fundamental untruth that grace isn’t real (and even if it is, there isn’t enough for me!). 

Isn’t this fear what lies behind the most prevalent heresy of our time (as a professor of mine mused), that of God’s unconditional love, as if He is someone ripe for a shell game?  Surely the Lord loves us – and loves us first.  And, as Paul writes, died for us while we were still in sin.  Only when this love is accepted, embraced through godliness and prayer and all that Sacred Scripture implores us, can we really experience it.  What I mean about God’s unconditional love is this: human conditions continually frustrate it.  Insisting on abiding in fear and then clamoring for God’s unconditional love to justify our fear and sin is a monstrous heresy in which God will not be complicit.  God’s unconditional love breaks through the heart of the wicked sinner – if only this sinner gives God a bit of grist in the reconciliatory mill. 

The reason, then, why I’m a Christian – and a Catholic to boot – is that I believe in grace: felt it, tasted it, smelt it – and know that when I sin Christ is on the Cross and then rising all over again, proving to me that there is nothing to fear, nothing at all, just so long as I turn my eyes to the Cross, point it out to sin and death and say: look there, you have failed, that is only a statue, only a representation of what you thought you did – instead now, look at me, claimed by Christ.  Read the Word of God and know the He is the Lord indeed.  The Lord is risen as He said He Would.  I am an Easter person and Alleluia is my song.  Death and sin, you do not scare me.


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