November 22, 2002
"Why do you search for the Living One among the dead? He is not here; He has been raised up." —Luke 24:5-6
Alleluia! Jesus is risen! He's alive! "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (1 Cor 15:55) We as Christians have personally had the most overwhelming experience imaginable. The One Who loves us so much, Who would do anything for us, was brutally murdered by crucifixion. To have a loved one die is traumatic enough without it being a violent murder. Amazingly, this Victim came out of the grave on the third day. We who love Him are transformed from a shattered life to victory, from weeping to joy, and from mourning to dancing (Ps 30:6, 12). Imagine a dead parent, spouse, or friend walking in the room right now. This would be a shadow of what happens when we meet the risen Christ.
We may think we cannot meet the risen Jesus because His body is no longer with us but is ascended to the right hand of the Father. This is irrelevant. The physical body of the risen Christ had little effect on those that encountered Him. Mary Magdalene thought He was the gardener (Jn 20:15). The two disciples on the road to Emmaus walked about seven miles with Him and still did not recognize His glorified body (Mk 16:12). What they did notice was their hearts burning as Jesus explained the Scriptures to them (Lk 24:32). This was the beginning of meeting the risen Lord (Lk 24:8; Jn 20:9). Then, together with the breaking of the bread (the Eucharist), they finally recognized the risen Jesus (Lk 24:35; Acts 10:41; Mk 16:14). Still, this did not complete the experience. Although the disciples' eyes were opened, their hearts were still closed by fear, as indicated by the locked doors of the upper room (Jn 20:26). Finally, the Spirit set them free by rolling away the stone of fear from the tomb of the upper room. Then they ran out into the streets and proclaimed the wondrous works of God (Acts 2:11).
In summary, meeting the risen Christ had little to do with seeing His physical body. "Blest are they who have not seen and have believed" (Jn 20:29). The teaching of God's word is the beginning of meeting the risen Jesus. Then our eyes are opened in the breaking of the bread. The experience culminates in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the call to evangelization. Then we have experientially and personally met the risen Lord. Our lives are changed dramatically. A dead Man, Jesus the God-Man, is living and breathing in our midst. Life is no longer the same.
DISMANTLING THE OLD MAN
"This means that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation." —2 Corinthians 5:17
After we have met the risen Christ, all is new. We don't feel like going routinely to work tomorrow morning, as if nothing has happened. Our marriages are different, especially if our spouses are in a different world because they have not personally met the risen Christ. After what has happened, the only use we can see for money is for financing our witness for the risen Christ. Those things we used to consider gain we "have now reappraised as loss in the light of Christ" (Phil 3:7). These changes seem extreme to one who has not met the dead raised. However, to us who have met the risen Lord, to proceed as usual makes no sense. We want to make up for lost time. We've already "devoted enough time to what the pagans enjoy" (1 Pt 4:3).
Before we can build a new, risen life, we must dismantle the old life. We must clear away our Babels, old wineskins, half-built houses, and monuments to self so we can build God's kingdom. The Lord says: "You must lay aside your former way of life and the old self which deteriorates through illusion and desire, and acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking" (Eph 4:22-23). These sand-castles are not built on the rock foundation of God's word but around sin-centers and pain-centers.
Sin that is not repented of becomes a center. For example, the sin of masturbation will affect what you watch on TV, the friends you choose, how open you are to God's word, your life-style, your desire for prayer, etc. Sin always takes center stage. Paul says, "Your own conduct was once of this sort, when these sins were your very life" (Col 3:7). Therefore, for the old order to pass away (2 Cor 5:17), we must through repentance pull out the sin-center. Then the whole sand- castle will begin to tumble down. Celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) regularly and frequently is the perfect way to dismantle the old order.
Our old lives also cluster around pain-centers. For example, if you have pain in your toe as you're reading this, you will read inattentively, decide to quit, or hurry up to get done. The pain determines your attention, reading speed, and attitude. We all have been hurt many times physically, emotionally, and spiritually. An unhealed hurt usually becomes a center. For example, you have been rejected. You will tend not to trust others, not to share your personal concerns, and not to be open in situations where you don't have control. Rejection will dictate life-style, friends, conversations, and ways of praying. However, Jesus should be the Lord of our lives rather than sin and pain. We must repent and be healed. After we're healed, there's no reason to avoid certain things and situations. We don't have to be on the defensive or always in control. When our hearts are healed, another sand castle crumbles. The building site is cleared and God can build a new life for us. We can say with Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ, and the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me. I still live my human life, but it is a life of faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal 2:19-20).
"On the Lord's day I was caught up in ecstasy." —Revelation 1:10
After we have met personally the risen Christ, desired a new life, and dismantled the old man centered on sin and hurt, we are ready to be built as an edifice of Spirit to the glory of God (1 Pt 2:5). The first step is to "work on Sunday" — not to do work on Sunday, but to work on ourselves so as to make Sunday the basis for the rhythm of our new life. Sunday is Resurrection Day, and the focal point of the risen life. We need to keep Sunday holy. In this way, we can rise from the deaths of everyday life. Here we can lay the first stone in building the kingdom of the risen Lord.
To put Sunday back in first place in our lives, we must not be conformed to the present age (Rm 12:2). We must reject the weekend-mentality of the world which makes Sunday a day of escape and/or work. If we let it, the world will drain us of life each Sunday, rather than raise us to life. We will then begin the week in chaos rather than in re-creation. If we don't keep the Lord's day holy, how can we keep the week and our whole lives holy as He is holy? (1 Pt 1:16)
We draw life from His resurrection each Sunday (1 Pt 1:3) by centering on the Sunday Eucharist. Our first day of the week should be preparing for, celebrating, and continuing the eucharistic worship of Jesus. Resting is part of this process, but family fellowship, prayer, and studying God's word are also aspects of risen life. If we can have a risen day on Sunday, we can have one on Monday.
"Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being. Do it for the Lord rather than for men, since you know full well you will receive an inheritance from Him as your reward. Be slaves of Christ the Lord." —Colossians 3:23-24
When we experience Sunday as a day of risen life, we will want Monday to be one too. For most people, if Monday is to be a day of life and resurrection, they must roll away the stone from the tomb of work. For work to come alive, first we must put our work under the lordship of the risen Christ and decide to work for Him rather than for man (Col 3:23). We should ask ourselves whether we would stay on our job if we didn't need the money. We must no longer work "for perishable food but for food that remains unto life eternal" (Jn 6:27). We should obey our bosses with the "reverence, the awe, and the sincerity we owe to Christ" (Eph 6:5), and adorn the gospel by our godly relationship with our boss and other workers (Ti 2:10; 1 Pt 2:19).
When our work is definitely under Jesus' lordship, we can consider whether to keep our jobs or move on to other ones. If your job is immoral in that it does not help humanity, then you can leave it immediately. However, most people's jobs are not clearly immoral. Usually Jesus does not call us to change jobs but to change the way we do our jobs. However, sometimes He calls His disciples to leave their nets (Mt 4:20) and begin a new work. How do we know whether to quit or stay? We should try to pray with a co-worker, even if our prayer is only for a moment. Jesus sent His disciples out two by two (Lk 10:1). If two or three are gathered in Jesus' name, Jesus promises to be present in a special way (Mt 18:20). If we are unable to pray in any way with at least one co-worker after a month or two of sincerely trying, we should leave the job. There's no future in God's kingdom for a job where there isn't some united prayer. However, most of the time we will be able to get at least one co-worker to pray with us in some way.
The next thing to do is to be sure we are living the life in the Spirit, that the Spirit is not stifled in us on the job. If we are living the open, free, public Christian life, something's got to give. Our place of employment will either change, or it will convulse in the presence of God's Spirit and expel us. We have nothing to lose. We either get out of a dead-end, stagnant situation or become a means of grace and conversion for our co-workers. However, living in the Spirit does not mean doing things to provoke others, but just being normal, free, and open Christians. Through the Spirit, we work our way into a new risen job — the same job done in a new way or a completely new job. We must have risen life on the job, or we don't have risen life.
(For more teaching on this subject, order our leaflet: Job Performance for Jesus)
MARRIAGES MADE IN HEAVEN
"The unbelieving husband is consecrated by his believing wife; the unbelieving wife is consecrated by her believing husband. If it were otherwise, your children should be unclean; but as it is, they are holy." —1 Corinthians 7:14
Having a risen job that still doesn't give us risen life, although it's a good start. We must have risen relationships, marriages, and families to come home to. Some of the first people who met the risen Christ went home and didn't feel like having sexual relations (1 Cor 7:5, 12) and being married anymore. If you can't share the greatest experience of your life with your spouse, then you don't have much in common. Some felt the only thing to do was to separate. Paul disagreed and ordered the believer not to make any changes. If the one who has not met the risen Christ decides to leave, that's his or her decision (1 Cor 7:15). Believers are neither to resign themselves to the status quo in their marriages nor provoke their spouses to change. The one who has met the risen Jesus is merely to act normal. Of course, when one has met the dead raised to life, "normal" will certainly be powerful and filled with the Spirit, although not provocative. As with our work, something's got to give when new life meets an old marriage (see Lk 5:37). It may get worse before it gets better.
Put your marriage in God's hands by trying to pray with your spouse in some way. Call on your Christian community to support you in prayer. Use your spiritual gifts. The risen Christ will raise up your marriage. You don't have to raise it by your power, just help roll away the stone. "Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord" (Zec 4:6, our transl).
"The community of believers were of one heart and one mind. None of them ever claimed anything as his own; rather, everything was held in common. With power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus." —Acts 4:32-33
When our work and marriages have risen, we're on our way to risen life, but we must put our money and finances in the nail-scarred hands of the risen Lord. "Wherever your treasure lies, there your heart will be" (Lk 12:34). On the other side of death, money drastically changes in value. Someone who has died and risen with Jesus (Col 3:1) sees money as a means, not an end — a means to further the kingdom of the risen Lord. Suddenly, pooling our money and property by community living seems to be the sensible thing to do. "Those who believed shared all things in common; they would sell their property and goods, dividing everything on the basis of each one's need" (Acts 2:44-45).
Instead of ten people paying ten gas bills, phone bills, food bills, and ten house payments, we consider it a most wasteful luxury to be independent. Who cares about the privacy of suburbia and the life-style of secular humanism? We've got more important things to do with God's money — like witnessing for the risen Christ.
This community living of the early resurrection witnesses may seem overwhelming to us. We can't do it, but we can let it be done (Lk 1:38). The Spirit can do it in us. We begin by obeying God in tithing and almsgiving. We will see the floodgates of heaven open (Mal 3:10). After meeting the risen Lord, we "come to rate all as loss in the light of the surpassing knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil 3:8). Our life in the Spirit becomes a life-style in the Spirit. Eventually, the simple, communal life is the only life-style that appeals much to those who have passed through the valley of the shadow of death with the risen Jesus (Ps 23:4).
IMMUNITY OR COMMUNITY?
"There is no Greek or Jew here, circumcised or uncircumcised, foreigner, Scythian, slave, or freeman. Rather, Christ is everything in all of you." —Colossians 3:11
Worldly people are usually traumatized by the thought of losing control of their money and their independence. Risen people do not have that reaction because they want to be with others with whom they can share the risen Lord. Whether a person is rich or poor, black or white, young or old, male or female is no longer important. All that matters is that they have also met personally the risen Christ. "There does not exist among you Jew or Greek, slave or freeman, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28). For example, the experience of the risen Christ broke the centuries-old barrier between Jew and Greek. Suddenly a Jewish Christian felt more at home with a Gentile or even a Samaritan than with a Jew because they had in common the most important experience in life, that is, knowing the risen Christ.
After the resurrection, we're not afraid of community. Instead, we're afraid not to be in community. No longer are there all-white or all-black churches or neighborhoods. The risen Jesus has broken down the barriers and the two are one (Eph 2:14). Now we are not dislocated and isolated, but members of the one body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12). As more parts of Christ's body work in harmony, we experience power and life that we have never dreamed possible. For the first time, we understand what Jesus meant when He promised us the abundant risen life (Jn 10:10).
"Christ loved the church. He gave Himself up for her to make her holy." —Ephesians 5:25-26
The risen Jesus transforms us from mere church-goers into members of the body of Christ. Now that we're risen with Christ we don't fit into the average church, which may be more dead than alive and usually in the tomb rather than proclaiming Jesus in the streets. Should we leave our church and find a lively, Spirit-filled church? No! As risen people, we serve as a leaven of renewal (Mt 13:33). We don't "change churches," meaning joining a new church, but we "change churches," meaning transforming the old church. There's no need for us to move; we can move the church. Although the first reaction to the risen life is to move, Paul counseled against this: "What matters is keeping God's commandments. Everyone ought to continue as he was when he was called" (1 Cor 7:19-20). Jesus said: "The scribes and the Pharisees have succeeded Moses as teachers; therefore, do everything and observe everything they tell you. But do not follow their example" (Mt 23:2-3). The Jewish Christians stayed in the synagogue for over fifty years after Christ's death. Only when they were forced to deny Christ or leave, did they leave.
Many people complain that they're not being fed in their churches, but that's no reason to leave the church. A church is not primarily a place where services are provided for members; it is a family. We don't leave a family because others aren't doing their part. That's hardly the unconditional love of the Father. You don't leave your wife if she's stopped cooking and feeding the family. Similarly, we don't leave our church because we are not being fed. Instead we stay, repent, forgive, love, intercede, and use the gifts of the Spirit to bring about positive change. Of course, we're not to starve to death. Without leaving the church, we can supplement our spiritual diet by feeding ourselves through audio/video recordings, books, Bible studies, special conferences, retreats, renewals, and revivals. If the table isn't set at our church, we can eat elsewhere without walking out on our church family. Risen life does not mean leaving a dead church. It means rattling the dry bones and breathing life into the dead (Ez 37:7).
"What I say to you is: anyone who looks lustfully at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his thoughts." —Matthew 5:28
Risen life is not merely a platitude, doctrine, or theological abstract; it is something eminently practical. It affects our whole world and our whole person. To realize that our bodies are to rise incorruptible from the dead (1 Cor 15:54) in the pattern of Jesus' glorified body (Phil 3:21) transforms the way we look at our bodies and, therefore, our attitudes toward sex. We see that our bodies are made not for immorality but for immortality and holiness (1 Thes 4:7). Our bodies don't belong to us, but are temples of the Holy Spirit and bought at the price of Jesus' blood (1 Cor 6:19-20). We have given our bodies to the Lord as living sacrifices (Rm 12:1). We offer ourselves "to God as men who have come back from the dead to life" and our "bodies to God as weapons for justice" (Rm 6:13).
Therefore, masturbation, sexual fantasies, girl watching, boy watching, most TV watching, artificial birth control, pornography, fornication, and adultery are clearly sinful. "As for lewd conduct or promiscuousness or lust of any sort, let them not even be mentioned among you; your holiness forbids this. Nor should there be any obscene, silly, or suggestive talk; all that is out of place" (Eph 5:3-4). We not only don't do impure acts, we don't speak of them. However, we don't deny the reality of our sexual drives; in fact, we recognize the sanctity and beauty of sexual relations in marriage.
Especially we guard our eyes from looking lustfully, since they are the lamps of our bodies (Lk 11:34). Even though we are weak, we refuse to let the devil enslave us. By Jesus' power, we can be pure as He is pure (1 Jn 3:3). The risen life is a pure life. A risen body glorifies the true God, not the false god of impurity and lust (Eph 5:5).
"Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them." —Ephesians 4:29
Many times we hear the expression that he or she has a "big mouth." The Bible teaches that we all have "big mouths." Our mouths have a big effect on our lives. "If a person is without fault in speech he is a man in the fullest sense, because he can control his entire body" (Jas 3:2). "If a man who does not control his tongue imagines that he is devout, he is self-deceived; his worship is pointless" (Jas 1:26). Since our mouths control our bodies, devotion, and worship, the stone must be rolled away from our mouths so we may proclaim the risen "Alleluia."
The Holy Spirit can give us a fresh start. He gives us the gift of tongues, bold proclamations of faith (Acts 2:4), and words that are Spirit and life (Jn 6:63). We as risen people can speak life-giving words.
Furthermore, meeting the risen Christ can shock us out of patterns in addition to those of speech. We may be compulsive eaters, negative thinkers, slaves of fear, or depressed worriers. Meeting the risen Christ can disrupt all these patterns. We can have a fresh start and a free life.
"I came that they might have life and have it to the full." —John 10:10
Alleluia! Jesus is risen! It is true (Lk 24:34). You can meet Him in a personal, life-changing way. Any life that is not transformed by the resurrection of Jesus is out of touch with reality because it is out of touch with the major event of human history. "The old order has passed away; now all is new!" (2 Cor 5:17) Today, begin a new life in the risen Christ. Alleluia!
Nihil obstat: Reverend Edward J. Gratch, July 15, 1996.
Imprimatur: † Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Auxiliary Bishop and Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, July 22, 1996.