Friday, April 5, 2013

Living the New Life

"Father, what is the Resurrection?" This was an unexpected question coming from one of his parishioners that for a moment confused the priest. He writes about this experience in a bulletin for priests. The woman wanted a clear explanation and the priest confesses he was not up to it. He felt he could not say he didn't know, so he relied on what he had learned in the seminary for his quick answer. Eternal life, salvation, God's kingdom, a new heaven and new earth, were the words he put together for his answer. He only knew the theory.

He went back to his room dejected. Here he was a priest and yet was not able to give a lucid answer to a basic question. Are we waiting for another happier world than the one we are experiencing now?  Are we waiting for this new and better life? What is the new heaven and new earth?  These were the thoughts that were filling his head.

He remembers an incident in 2006 when he was with a group of young people at a neighboring parish, watching the soccer match between Korea and Togo for the World Cup. Korea was behind in the first half, but went on to tie and beat Togo by one goal, which made him and his friends deliriously happy. On the return to his parish, he heard about the death of one of his altar boys, who had been on his way to see the same soccer match when he had an epileptic seizure and, with nobody there to help, died where he fell on the road.

The priest wondered where he had been when the boy had the seizure. These thoughts began to confuse him. Under the same heaven, he had been drinking beer, laughing and enjoying the soccer game while the middle school boy had fallen down on the  ground, dying. This thought left him feeling wretched.

These kinds of incidents are happening all the time, he reminds us. Some people are enjoying their lives, and others are wondering where the next meal will be coming from. He knows that not everyone is living under the same conditions as the fortunate few, but this only makes him feel more upset. He now wonders even more about the promised new heaven and earth that we are dreaming about; he would like to think we all are hoping for the same thing.

We have the words of Jesus that give us hope. We know that working for a utopia on this earth is not going to do it: the attempted utopias have all failed, and often with hellish results. However, we have put on "the new person." Though not yet completed, it is present now, giving us hope for the future. Having put on the new person, and with the graces promised, we try to live this new life and want others to join us. The life begins now and will be completed after death. It is a tragedy to forget this fact. As Paul tells us in Romans 6:4 : "Through baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life."

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