By Joseph Breighner
Psychologists tell us that most of human behavior can be summed up in the three wants: approval, control and safety. The seven deadly sins could be summed up in some form of wanting.
The Easter season that we are celebrating now, roughly the seven weeks after Easter, are about how the apostles moved out of wanting and into having. Let’s look at a few examples.
We all want approval. Yet, the apostles realized they were not going to get the approval of the Sanhedrin, the religious leaders of their day, if they continued to proclaim that this Jesus, who was crucified, had risen from the dead. Yet, they chose to let go wanting religious approval and surrendered instead to the Risen Lord. “We must serve God, not man” was basically their reply. In letting go of the seal of approval of the religious orthodoxy of their day, the apostles instead found the approval of God. Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. No law can substitute for our conscience. “We have seen the Lord,” was their proclamation. Seeing is believing. Believing is another form of seeing. In losing human approval, even well-intentioned human approval, the apostles moved into having the approval of God.
Wanting control was something else they had to let go. I’ve always enjoyed the account in John’s Gospel of the Risen Jesus on the shore calling out to the apostles in the boat: “Have you caught anything?” They replied: “Nothing.” Jesus then said: “Lower your nets on the other side, and you will catch something.” They caught 153 fish!
Now when the last time a carpenter told fishermen how to fish? Yet, this was no longer someone who had been a carpenter speaking. This was the Risen Lord. They didn’t recognize him, which is characteristic of many of the resurrection appearances. But they let go of their wanting control, their smarts, their certainties, their knowledge of fishing, and trusted this Jesus.
Control is one thing most of us are reluctant to let go. We want to be in charge. Yet, it was when they let go being in charge that the apostles found a whole new form of power. It wasn’t the power of the human ego. It was the power of God. Surrendering to God doesn’t put us out of control. It gives us another kind of control. It’s a control that doesn’t feed self importance. It’s control that focuses on the importance of God.
There are about two billion Christians on the planet today. Could any amount of human control have made it possible for 12 men to accomplish that? Ironically, it was a woman, Mary Magdalene, who was the apostle to the apostles. She had neither approval nor control in her day, but likely you and I wouldn’t be Christians today if she had trusted only in her personal control.
We want approval. We want control. Finally, we want to be safe. We lock our homes and our cars. We spend billions on defense. We take our pills and our potions. Yet, a thousand years from now no one will know we even existed. How safe are we?
Yet in the Book of Revelation there were magnificent images of heaven and every creature under heaven and earth praising God. Death proves to be an illusion for those who trust God. Our minds and bodies will not continue to exist in their present forms. But, if we put our faith in the Risen Lord, if we put our faith in the power of unconditional love, we will live forever. Like Jesus, we too will share a glorified body. We become a part of this Risen Christ who fills the universe in all its parts.
Ironically, when we let go of our human wanting and surrender to Christ, we fall into having everything. It really is true that all we have to do is let go and let God. We just have to believe that, and to do that. That’s our decision.
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Copyright (c) May 2, 2013 CatholicReview.org