This reflection is a riff on the Sermon I preached at Reconciler on May 4th, the Third Sunday of Easter. The Gospel text is the Road to Emmaus, the other Scripture texts are a portion of Peter’s sermon at Pentecost and the beginning of the First Letter of Peter.
We can lose sight of the meaning of Pascha, of the Resurrection and this season of Easter. Conservative or Liberal we may be tempted to see this as about morals, or justice, or ethics. Or maybe we want the Resurrection and the incarnation to be a principle we can apply. All of this doesn’t take seriously enough the human predicament. Doesn’t take seriously our own, my own, predicament.
Our predicament (my predicament) is futile, it leads towards death. It is a dead end.
What was Peter preaching on that first Pentecost? Was he calling people to repent from being part of the mob that handed Jesus of Nazareth over to be crucified. I don’t think so. Jesus on the way to Emmaus tells Cleopas and his companion that the Messiah had to suffer, had to die, had to enter the tomb. It doesn’t help to repent from our predicament, that we are stuck. That we live in a world dominated by death, violence, injustice and oppression. No, the change of mind Peter called for and which Peter still calls us to, is to decide with what will we identify, the one who was crucified, who we crucified, or the crooked generation. Are we going to identify the one who entered our tombs our dead end world, or are we going to identify with an age and a generation that can only offer us a life that ends in our death, the dead end.
If we have difficulty understanding the faith of the Apostles and the nature of the Joy of this season of Easter it is because we think God came to transform a dead end age into the Kingdom of God. This is also what everyone at the time of jesus thought the Messiah was going to do, no one thought the Messiah was going to become accursed in Death, die on a Cross. The Messiah wasn’t supposed to do that, Cleopas says so.
Jesus has to set us on a different path.
Jesus, as we know from the Gospel of the Second Sunday of Easter after the Resurrection still has the wounds. Christ really died, and by death beat down death an on those in the tombs bestowing life.
If we are to understand what has been achieved for us and live it out in our daily life, ff the joy of the Resurrection is to penetrate, we must admit that we are still in the tombs. It is to us and all humanity that Christ has come. The tombs, Christ undergoing death isn’t simply some past event, it is what it means to be rescued from the futility and meandering path of our generation, of this age.
This should lead us to repentance and conversion (one that is continual throughout our lives, not a one time event) as we encounter again and again how we tend to simply wander to our deaths, without purpose. Continually repent from how we live according to this generation and age that is passing away and convert to the age of life and Joy that has come, and is to come.
The futility and crookedness of this age has little to do with its ethics or morality, nor its principles, but simply that it is given over to death. We can live as Martin Heidegger described in his philosophy as being towards death, or we can become identified in baptism and Eucharist with the one who is Life itself. This doesn’t change the nature of this generation and age that is being towards death, but it changes us so that in these tombs we and those around us may have life. This is the path of discipleship, this is the path of the cross, this is the purpose of the ascetic and mystical path, that we may be Christ, who is life in the midst of this futile age that is passing away, that is being towards death.
There’s another possible misunderstanding here, to identify this age or generation with the physical universe and the age to come and of life with the non-material. Or to see it as a past/present verse future dichotomy. What is proclaimed though is to ages and generations existing as alternate “dimensions”. Or another way of putting it two ways of being, one way which is being towards death the other which is being in life. Both are physical and spiritual, material and immaterial. This is why it is key to affirm the bodily Resurrection of jesus and that Thomas could have put his finger in Jesus’ wounds.
I recommend also reading the sermon, if you haven’t already done so, to get the fullness of this thought.