When reading the book of Genesis, I try to put myself into the perspective of Adam and Eve. Here are two people who had a perfect love with God and each other, they had no suffering, pain, despair, anxiety, stress, loneliness, sin, and the list goes on. They also had no concept of death. We hear in Genesis that God commands them not to eat of the tree, or they will surely die. But imagine what that would have been like for Adam and Eve to hear. They didn’t have an experience of death; they had nothing to compare with it. All they knew or could theorize is that death is the opposite of what they had. It was unknown.
This is taken further in that after the fall they realized they were naked and hid. They hid for many reasons, shame, embarrassment, fear, confusion, but it’s clear that they were now afraid they would use each other. In the beginning, human beings acted only one way, out of love, but now there is a fear of use. This fear came through the rupture between body and soul. After all, what is death besides the soul leaving the body? In the beginning, Adam and Eve could look and see the whole person in all it’s glory, body and soul, after the fall they look and conceal themselves out of fear that they will no longer see a person, but just an object. Not as someone but as something.
All of this is set up in Genesis, but how does it relate to today’s first reading? Well, Adam and Eve changed the course of human history, and death has entered the world. So what’s the cure? If death happens in the body, then there must be some way for the Divine to literally enter into the human experience to transform what was tainted by sin and resurrect it. There must be some way for God to become flesh.
Thankfully, unlike Adam and Eve, we now know the answer is Jesus taking on our bodies, taking the human body to the most extreme and terrible suffering imaginable, conquering it, and rising. Giving death the proverbial kick in the face on Easter morning.
Relate this to the readings of the day. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained. We are perplexed but not driven to despair. We are persecuted but not abandoned and struck down but not destroyed. This is such a beautiful paradox that just like Christ, we must suffer for a time to live for all time. Our bodies are dying more every day to get closer to life.
Last week one of my dear friends passed away in a car accident, and everyone in our community was rightly emotional at the loss of such a good person. But in the back of our minds, we couldn’t help but proclaim that his death, as evil and tragic as it was, was the next step in his journey of life. He loved rock climbing, and as our priest so eloquently put it in his homily, he has now reached the peak. The climb was treacherous at times, it was uncertain, it was scary, but death was not the end, the height of the climb was new life.
This week, I am reminded in quite a tangible way of the beauty of what Christ has done for us. God created us good, sin entered the world and brought death, God became man and took on death, and in rising conquered it once and for all. I can’t help but smile as I write this and think of 1st Corinthians where we hear, “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?”
As the Catechism puts it, “The flesh is the hinge of salvation. We believe in God who is the creator of the flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh in order to redeem the flesh; we believe in the resurrection of the flesh, the fulfillment of both the creation and the redemption of the flesh.”
So let us grieve when we are confronted with death, as is right to do, let us affirm that death is not a good, but let’s not believe the lie that death is the end. Thank you, God, for dying so that I may truly live. From all of us here at Diocesan, God Bless!
Tommy Shultz is a Solutions Evangelist for Diocesan. In that role, he is committed to coaching parishes and dioceses on authentic and effective Catholic communication. Tommy has a heart and a flair for inspiring people to live their faith every day. He has worked in various youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. He has been a featured speaker at retreats and events across the country. His mission and drive have been especially inspired by St. John Paul II’s teachings. Tommy is blessed to be able to learn from the numerous parishes he visits and pass that experience on in his presentations. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.