Letter From New York Easter Sunday 2009

Letter From New York
April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday

It is Easter Weekend. I am at the cottage, and winter will not pull its icicle claws from us – it is unseasonably cold. A fire burns in my Franklin stove. There is a lament in the streets that spring will not really happen. We, here in the Hudson Valley, have been teased by spring yet it will not burst upon us. It is still winter cold.

Tonight, returning from a day of errands, the sunset was of the kind that inspired the Hudson school of painters. Grey clouds were bordered with magenta light and it was magical. Nature isn’t giving us warmth but it is giving us beauty.

It is Easter. It is Passover. These are profound holidays for those who live in the Judeo-Christian tradition. I find myself acknowledging them if no longer quite a part of them. It is now been a long time since I have been a practicing Catholic, which is my heritage. I gave that up a long time ago. I have flirted with a few other faith groups and have never been able to quite settle in comfortably with any of them. I appreciate the Episcopalian tradition; it is a religion that was born out of a need to justify divorce and murder. It should be forgiving. But even there I have never quite found a match.

That he lived – of that I have no doubt. That he changed the world – of that I have no doubt. Today much of the world will celebrate his Resurrection – his return from the dead after a horrific death. Out of this event came one of the greatest religious movements the world has ever seen. Christ died and was resurrected and this man god Jesus has become one of the central pillars of civilization.

Yet I wonder what Jesus would think of the way he has been used over the centuries. This was a man of peace. Granted he was testy with the moneychangers in the temple but he didn’t kill any of them. He was a man of peace and love from all the accounts of his life that have been written, from the sanctioned writings to the Apocryphal Gospels that didn’t make it into the “Bible.” This was a man who forgave and asked people to simply go and sin no more. Yet I am in the middle of a Holy Season and I am brutally aware of how much warfare has occurred due to individuals and nations claiming Jesus Christ as theirs. Empires were built on the concept of “Christianization.” Other wars were fought by other nations justified by their religion. Christianity and almost every other religion have been used to justify war, death, cruelty.

This is not what I think Jesus was expecting when he offered himself up to die on the cross. He was not a person who wanted earthly power and yet many of those who have followed him since then have been focused on having earthly power and used the controlling power of religion to attain it. While Europe was living its Dark Ages, Islam was preserving the best of our past. We would be missing much of Greek and Roman civilization were it not for the Muslims; they preserved and valued what the Christian West rejected – the thoughts of anyone who had come before them.

It seems most religions become seduced by the earthly power that can be derived from controlling souls. As we celebrate Easter and Passover the world is full of examples of religious fury and religious peace. In Italy earthquake survivors celebrate amidst the ruins, an Afghan woman, an official who supported women’s rights, was gunned down in the streets of her town, Pope Benedict XVI calls for world reconciliation, the Real IRA in Belfast is calling for the death of an official because he is working for peace.

“Father, forgive them; they know not what they do,” was said by Christ on the cross. I think now the words were for that moment and all the moments to come when his teachings would be bastardized.

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One Response to “Letter From New York Easter Sunday 2009”

  1. Walt Says:

    Perhaps you never really understood the crux of Catholicism (no Latin pun intended).

    Here is a brief (thus probably inadequate in many ways) explanation of Roman Catholicism:

    God is love. Love is making a gift of yourself to another. Love is self-giving. The opposite of love is selfishness. Authentic love always exhibits 4 basic qualities; it is always free, total, faithful, and fruitful. Otherwise, is has been corrupted by selfishness, which makes one want to possess something/someone for one’s own pleasure.

    God exists in a communion formed by self-giving love: the Trinity.

    The Father begets the Son by loving him; the Son is begotten by the Father, letting himself be loved and receiving from him the capacity to love; the Holy Spirit is love given in total gratuitousness by the Father, received with full gratitude by the Son, and returned by him to the Father. – Pope John Paul II 7/29/98

    God is not a solitude, but a family. — Pope John Paul II

    Authentic love is always open to new life (i.e., fruitful).
    God created man out of love.
    God created man in his image and likeness.
    God created man to share his divine life.
    God’s hope (expectation?) was that man would live a life of perfect self-giving love in imitation of his creator.
    Man would procreate, building a large family of God on earth, obedient and faithful in love to him and to each other.
    True love gives total freedom to the other.
    Man was completely free to choose to respond to God’s love and God’s plan by giving of himself to God in return.
    Giving of himself to God would involve man’s obedience and faithfulness to God.

    Man was disobedient and unfaithful to God (Adam & Eve…) (selfish).
    God immediately promised a plan of salvation for man.

    God begins to form a people [family/tribe/nation/kingdom] that will freely return his love and live in imitation of their creator.
    God continued to reach out to his expanding family.
    He sent a law for them to follow (Moses. 10 Commandments, etc.).
    He sent prophets to them as his messengers.

    But God’s people continually fell into a cycle of
    Unfaithfulness / Tragedy / Repentance / Forgiveness / Faithfulness / Pride (forgetting God) / Unfaithfulness…
    His people repeatedly fail to keep the law and be faithful to him (i.e., failed to love him in response to his love for them).

    In the fullness of time, God sent his Son, Jesus, out of his love and his desire to see his people restored.

    Jesus was perfectly faithful, obedient, humble, self-giving in love.
    Jesus does what Israel (God’s chosen people) failed to do: he freely did only God’s will, which was primarily to proclaim the truth about the kingdom of God (and witness to it via signs and wonders – miracles, exorcisms, etc).

    Jesus endured all the pain and suffering that came upon him because of his perfect faithfulness to the Father……to the point of death.
    (His proclamation of the truth caused him to be hated by the religious authorities of his time. The more he proclaimed the truth and worked miracles (i.e., did God’s will, his mission in life), the more they hated him, until finally their selfishness caused them to kill him)
    The only way that Jesus could have avoided being put to death would have been by selfishly being unfaithful to the will of his Father.
    But Jesus freely chose death rather than unfaithfulness to God.

    This is why his sacrifice is accepted by God in atonement for our sins: because, in his human nature, Jesus remained totally faithful to God.

    By his sacrifice, Jesus cleared away the impediments to Divine Mercy for all of us.
    Jesus won for us the grace which is necessary for us to be faithful to God.
    We must come to God through Jesus – he wasn’t sent by the Father for nothing!!
    We need the grace that Jesus won for us; we cannot be faithful by our own efforts.
    Jesus rises from the dead to prove that life is eternal.

    Together, the Father & Son send the Holy Spirit
    Who brings God’s grace
    And is God’s life in us

    The Spirit is also the love and the personal gift which contains every created gift: life, grace and glory. The mystery of this communion shines forth in the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, enlivened by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit himself makes us “one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28) and thus integrates us within the same unity which binds the Son to the Father. We are left in wonder at this intense and intimate communion between God and us! – Pope John Paul II 7/29/98

    Remember, God wants to form a people that will freely return his love and live in imitation of their creator. (vs establishing a written law to be followed)

    Jesus came to restore the formation of this people, not just to write a book [the bible].

    Church = family of God
    A family of God’s creatures
    A family with this common trait: acceptance of Jesus as their Savior
    A family adopted by the Father

    A family of people who will now use the grace that God now offers us through Jesus (sacraments, liturgy, etc.)

    To enable us to be faithful

    To freely choose to put him and others first

    Despite any pain and suffering we must endure

    Just like Jesus did!!

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