Friday, April 13, 2007

I Wanna Live Forever!

"Let nothing trouble you, let nothing make you afraid. All things pass away. God never changes..." - Saint Teresa of Avila

Sounds like Christian zen, doesn't it? To be still in the midst of restlessness, silent in the clamor of noise, anchored in the midst of life's storms. Well, Grasshopper, where is your heart in all of this?

St. Teresa of Avila, one of the Church's greatest superheroines, is singing us a mystical lullaby in this quote. She's trying to sooth our troubled hearts, give us confidence in the Father's love and faithfulness. And we know this tune: Life fades, God remains. We experience at least the first half firsthand; things "pass away" all the time. Everything is dust in the wind, as Kansas once sang; from the flowers of the field to the friends we grew up with. Nature herself is constantly changing clothes, and the children of the earth are rising and dying over and over again.

We know too that we should have a certain detachment from this passing world, even from our very selves, because we too our passing. But watching persons and things "fade" is not easy! We want to live, life is good!

So the thoughts about passing are thoughts we usually pass on. Even though we see, hear, read about and experience the Big "D" (death) every day, we still try and escape it, repress it, hold it back. Especially in our youth, we feel that we will somehow be able to elude it. We believe almost subconsciously that we will be the exception to this rule that's written in our collapsing cosmos (ooo, there's a cheerful image).

"Fame! I wanna live forever! I'm gonna learn how to fly... HIGH!"
These are some old school lyrics to a song whose refrain still echoes in every new generation. Now, some would propose that this desire to slip away from the cold grasp of death is just a biochemical reaction to the ultimate threat. We are shoved into a corner and so we try to dream our way out. It would be "nice" if my heart could go on, so I'll think happy thoughts and make a "happy place" with clouds and green grass and all my loved ones waiting there for me. Some would say it's a fantasy and nothing more.

Some believe we should just suck it up and face a cold dark universe armed only with this present moment. Some say we should have our feet squarely planted here and now and not in some castle in the clouds.I think, in the immortal words of Forrest Gump, that maybe it's both. Even as I watch things pass away, I have this sense deep down that I will remain, be reborn, be rekindled... How do I know? Where will the reanimating spark leap out from as it did in animating Adam with an immortal soul? From God's Finger, or more to the point, from the pierced hand of Christ. My new life too will leap from the empty tomb. What happened to Christ will happen to all of us; the sorrows, yes, but the glory as well!

This tomb of His is empty, not because we feverishly clapped our hands in the hopes that this fairy tale would come true. But because it is true. And so for us in the end, death cannot stop true love; "all it can do is delay it for awhile." We've been announcing our faith in this final victory for millennia, every Sunday, with millions of people throughout the world. It's from the Apostle's Creed: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen."

It's that biggie at the end there, the part about the body rising again. The author J.R.R. Tolkien once whispered this wisdom through his kingly and Christlike character, Aragorn; "In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound forever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory..." The hobbit-hero Samwise the Brave felt the same surge of faith in the midst of his trials, and in looking up from the very Land where Shadows lie, he saw a star eternal, inspiring and unchanging....

"The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.... Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master's, ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo's side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep and untroubled sleep."

With confidence, with deep faith, and with an undying hope, let's face our own shadows and the passing trials of this life. For even now the Son is rising...
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