Friday, May 29, 2009

3-23-2008: Easter Sunday (A)

Acts of the Apostles 10:34,37-43/Psalm 118/Colossians 3:1-4/John 20:1-9
Easter is a moveable feast, as they say, determined each year by the phases of the moon and the complex calculations of the calendar. But I’d like to think it could likewise be called moveable for that seeming incidental detail of the gospels: the stone having been moved (by angels or earthquake) from blocking the entrance to the tomb. Since, in later post-resurrection appearances, Jesus is able to walk through closed doors, we might confidently assume he could have done the same on that first Easter morning. In other words, the stone is removed for our benefit, not his; so John and Peter can look in and see, literally, no body – and believe.

One could argue that if faith were entirely a spiritual reality, not dependent in any way on our senses or physical selves, then the apostles would have believed Jesus was raised without having to see the empty tomb. If faith were completely a function of disembodied grace, then the angel or the earthquake could have left the stone in its place in front of the tomb. If real faith were blind faith, there would be no need of evidence: in this case, the evidence of an empty tomb.

But Easter is about evidence. It’s about reality as perceived through our human senses. The ancients already believed in the immortality of the soul; what the revelation of Easter offers is evidence for the immortality of the body. Blind faith -- faith not based on reason, with no need of evidence -- can soon entertain any possibility, pursue any ignoble end. Blind faith can suggest, to an amenable mind, that suicide bombings or driving airplanes into buildings can give God glory. It can persuade the desperate to believe, as it did in the past, that the plague was a punishment from God; or, in the present, that white doctors injected the AIDS virus into people of color. But, alas, blind faith is no Easter faith; it prefers, instead, the stone remain in front of the tomb; it has no desire for evidence, no lasting need for truth. Blind faith is emotion immunized from reason; a flight of fantasy far removed from the discerning faculty of human judgment.

When John and Peter reached the tomb, the gospel tells us, they looked in. And seeing the emptiness within, they believed. Faith may indeed be a gift from God, but it manifests itself – always – in human terms; and often, in what certain religions judge to be the less appealing qualities of our human disposition: doubt, skepticism, and an inquisitive curiosity. The object of Easter faith, however, is not so much an acceptance of the inexplicable -- but a desire to satisfy reason in pursuit of truth.

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