By Father Joseph Breighner
As I walk on a spring day (it feels more like winter as I write this column), I’m always touched by the sight of dead leaves on the sidewalk. Once they were but tiny buds. Then they blossomed into full green leaves. The leaves were young and strong as they hung on the tree branch, and offered shade to those passing by. Then they grew older, and fell from the tree. Now they are but brittle brown objects, soon to turn into mulch to nurture the growth of some other organism.
Isn’t that a bit like us?
Once we were tiny buds, tiny babies in our mother’s arms. Then we were young children, then adolescents, then young adults, and, now … (speaking for myself) we are (ahem) older adults. Like the leaf, we too will die. We began this Lenten season with the sign of ashes remembering, “You are dust and unto dust you shall return.”
Someone once wisely observed, “We are all born knowing that we are going to die, but none of us believe it.”
But something will end our mortal lives – disease, accident, illness, age. One day the fingers that are typing this column will no longer be here. Nor will the rest of my body be here. Yet, I am led to believe, and I do believe, that long after my body no longer exists, I still will be here. Could this be what Easter is really all about? We believe that this Jesus was God, who came in human form, to show us that death was only a false king. Death seems to triumph over mere mortals. Our bodies do disappear.
But the body of Jesus reappeared. Sulpician Father Raymond Brown once commented in Scripture class that the flogged and crucified body of Jesus on the cross would have more resembled a piece of meat hanging in a butcher shop than it would a human body.
And yet the risen Lord, in all the Scriptural accounts, seems fully human. And while most accounts have people not immediately recognizing it was Jesus, all recognized a human figure.
We Christians state at least on a weekly basis our belief in “the resurrection of the dead.” We believe that death died on the cross, not life. We believe not just that we will be recycled like the leaf, from one form of life to another, but that we retain our identity and personality in eternity. I can’t explain that because the limited computer that is my mind can’t grasp the infinite. Faith can know what the mind can’t know.
Not long ago, a wonderful woman talked to me about sending her children to a Catholic school. She said her husband didn’t want them to be “indoctrinated” into certain beliefs. To my knowledge, no Catholic school forces anyone to believe Catholic doctrine. Hopefully, in a Catholic school, all students will be exposed to Catholic beliefs, but no belief is ever forced on anyone. All any students can be assured of is that they will receive an excellent education.
But, to respond to the challenge, aren’t we all being constantly indoctrinated into some belief? Every commercial has a message about how we should look, how we should smell, what car we should drive, what computer or accessory we should have, and on and on. We are constantly being indoctrinated into taking this world very seriously. Every radio and television show has a message. Every computer game has a message. Every form of media is offering us some view of the world! It’s naïve to think we’re not constantly being indoctrinated into the ways of the world. What’s wrong with offering a faith view of life from the point of view of God?
Faith is just that. It’s faith. We don’t begin the creed by saying, “I know.” We begin the creed by saying, “I believe.”
What’s wrong with believing that love is the strongest force in the universe? What’s wrong with believing that what we do to the least person we do to God? What’s wrong with believing that these few, short years that we get in our “flesh and blood” costume are not all that there is to life? What’s wrong with believing that God wants to share his own life with his creatures? What’s wrong with believing that we, like Jesus, will rise from
I don’t see anything wrong with it. In fact, I do believe. And if you have questions and doubts just ask him. The risen Lord is right next to you.
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