By Francis Gonsalves
May 12, 2011
On His deathbed, surrounded by despondent disciples, a Guru asked: “Don’t you see that death gives loveliness to life?” A disciple replied, “No! We would rather think that you never die”. Smiling, the Guru said, “Whatever is truly alive must die. Look at the flowers, only plastic flowers doesn’t die”.
Likewise, before his death Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”. Jesus’ death bore fruit in his resurrection; and, his Easter message is: “Arise, I am making everything new!”
Not everyone is comfortable with newness. I often meet people who are afraid of new ways of thinking and acting. Clinging onto the past, they mask their fears with: “We’ve been doing this for ages” or “this is the way things have always been” excuses. However, the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus is that we discover a totally new way of the divine action; encountering the Risen Christ means to be so totally transformed by the experience that we go around proclaiming that God transforms self-sacrificing deaths into life and that truth, ultimately, will triumph.
The Bible has many words connected to Jesus’ resurrection, like joy, peace, life, light, praise and glory. However, a lovely word that often escapes our attention is “new”. Even before the narratives of Jesus’ birth, there are many Biblical passages that speak of God acting in a “new” way. For instance, to those in exile God promises, “I am doing a new thing” and “I shall make a new covenant”. God also promises to give people a kind of heart-transplant: “I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you”. Prophet Ezekiel also has a vision of God raising to new life a people who are dead and whose bones lie in a valley.
Jesus’ resurrection is unprecedented in the history of humankind for the new meaning it gives to life and death. It is the historical promise that God will not allow evil to go unpunished and good, unrewarded, even if things might temporarily appear to be so. The Risen Jesus appears time and again to his disciples who fail to recognise him since his body is in the glorified state; yet, bearing the marks of his passion. The effect of Jesus’ apparitions on the lives of his disciples is striking — they are transformed and they hurry to proclaim the good news: “Fear not! Christ is risen!” With this message they set out to make everything new.
Jesus’ resurrection shows us the value of history and of our material existence, though it is transformed. Salvation, therefore, is not the ultimate freedom of some spiritual soul that emerges from our material bodies after death. It is, however, the final fulfilment of who and what we are — fully embodied human beings, not spiritual angels.
Years ago, after discussing Jesus’ resurrection with a group of young students, we decided to spend some time in prayer. Each of the students mentioned how they felt about Jesus’ resurrection and what they wanted to do as fruit of it. A young student, Priya, had taken off her shoes which were lying near the door of the chapel. She said, “I’ve bought new shoes for Easter; my new shoes will remind me that I have to walk a new path”. Another youth, Ashish, said: “Jesus’ resurrection teaches me to do something new. So, I will teach you all a new song!” With this, he began to teach the group a beautiful song.
“Sing a new song unto the Lord!” says the psalmist. Jesus’ resurrection invites us to sing new songs, write new poems, tread unbeaten paths, tell fresh stories, fashion innovative plans, explore uncharted territories, design new possibilities for encountering people and resolving problems. Paul, Jesus’ disciple, was radically transformed by his encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus. He reminds us that we are “a new creation; the old order is gone and a new being is there”.
God promises: “Behold, I am making all things new”. This promise is not limited to only making some people and only some things new, but to making everyone and everything new. And since God has already initiated this new venture, it is up to us, all God’s children, to carry forward God’s innovative plans with the assurance that God is with us.
Jesus’ death fructified in the resurrection because it was the outcome of genuine love. Love is gentle and never asserts itself except for transforming what is unlovable, loveless or even full of hatred. From the Cross, Jesus’ love and forgiveness reached out, and still reaches out, to all who are unloving and even violently hostile. This love was seemingly snuffed out in his death. However, beyond death, in his resurrection, God’s love makes Jesus radically new and radiantly young again. This same love can make us say to all those who seem dead, depressed or defeated: “Arise, start anew!” for God needs you and me to make everything new.
Francis Gonsalves is the principal of the Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi. He is involved in interfaith dialogue and peoples’ initiatives for fostering justice, harmony and peace.
Source: Asian Age