Word Embodied Meditations on the Sunday
Easter Sunday Resurrection of the Lord
March 27, 2016
John Kavanaugh, SJ
“The story seemed like nonsense, and they refused to believe it.”
Goodness. Let it be. Heavens and earth, day and night. Movements
of moon and stars that would never have been, had they not
willed into existence. Water, sky, and earth. The great parade
of natural kinds, nurtured by earth, fills the horizons. Waters
teem and trees flower. Fertility. Multiplicity. Creeping creatures,
urgent and easy, wild and gentle, small and great. God is the
original environmentalist, the first cause of all our species,
the eternal lover of diversity. Good. Yes.
Then the final good gift. “God created them in God’s own
image; male and female God created them.” This final nature,
a human one, would be given all else: as gift to nurture, name,
and affirm. All is benefaction, and the human, made specially
in the likeness of God, is empowered to know existence and
it all good. All is benediction.
At least one might have thought so. But the creature with the
power to name, with the freedom of “yes,” said “no.”
It was a rejection of the great order and the great orders.
There would be a resounding “no” to the goodness
of limits. The tempter was a liar. They already had the tree
life as their shade and comfort. They would not die anyway.
They were already like unto God. And yet, resistant to the
condition of their creaturehood they ate of the tree of limits.
They wanted more than the power to name all the goods of the
earth. They wanted to name evil, to dictate right and wrong.
They wanted to control all, even if it meant losing everything
In exile, there was left to them either despair or faith in
a journey back. But such a journey could be led only by one
who knew the way, only by one who could be absolutely trusted,
one wholly other than the namers who misnamed it all. Thus Abraham,
against all hope, learned to place all hope in the promise that
God made, to yield and obey at the core of his very being. Thus
he became the ancestor of all faith, even in the face of total
The return was rife with peril, traps set by alien powers.
Our people were horrified by the odds. The sea of frenzied
seemed impassible. Yet steadfast Moses, armed with nothing
more than the “other’s” promise, split the very sea
in two, offering passage. He became the ancestral leader of
The return had its snares, captivities of every manner. Our
forebears, like us, knew days and years of being lost and abandoned.
Moved by our affliction, the one who first pronounced us good
consoles us in prophetic voice. “With great tenderness
I will take you back ... with enduring love I will pity you.” The
covenants of Eden, of Noah, Abraham, and Moses will never be
Something new is promised: a water, not of chaos, but of cleansing;
a new food of unremitting nourishment; a mercy confounding,
lavish in forgiveness; love beyond the grasp of mere human
imagination. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so high
are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.”
God’s very word will come to be the final “yes” of
But what of our sin, our resistance, our ritual of death and
folly, the compulsive repetition of Eden’s inhabitants? How
might the wisdom of God penetrate our thickness? If our hearts
would only turn, Baruch chides us, with the humility of the
stars. If our minds might only surrender to the will that moves
the earth. Yet we cling to other gods, their twisted principles
Ezekiel, who saw our horrors and shame, indicted us but also
promised that the covenant holds despite our deed. Unfaithful,
we stay cherished. Besotted, we will be purified. Hard, cold,
and lost at sea, we heard Ezekiel’s rumor of our ransom. Could
we chance a hope for some new spirit, for hearts no longer made
of stone, for a homeland?
Who would have guessed that our home might be a person? Who
would have dreamed that the passage through the sea was just
that: going into the water, even under, but with someone who,
like a sleek, glorious dolphin of grace, would bear us on his
Jesus entered the deeps of death, a plunge he need not have
made had he not loved us in our sorry state. But he went to
death with a “yes,” with the utter trust of Abraham,
the constancy of Moses, the bright reliance of Isaiah. In Easter’s
vigil, we plunge with him: “Are you not aware that we
who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his
Being like him through likeness to his death, so shall we be
through a like resurrection.”
The risen crucified one sounds again God’s original “yes” to
us now, even in our sin, even in the death which sin brought
on us. Allowing us to be like and in him since he became so
fully like unto us, he carries us, as one of his own, to safe
“If we have died with Christ, we believe that we are also
to live with him. His death was death to sin, once for all;
his life is life for God.”
John Kavanaugh, SJ
Kavanaugh was a professor of Philosophy at
Louis University in St. Louis.
His untimely death is a grief for the many people he reached during his lifetime.
THE WORD ENGAGED:
Meditations on the Sunday Scriptures Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York (1997), pp. 53-55.
To purchase or learn more about other books
written by Fr. Kavanaugh,
go to http://www.maryknollmall.org/ and
type "Kavanaugh" next to the "SEARCH"
Art by Martin Erspamer, O.S.B.
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical
Year (A, B, and C).
Used by permission of Liturgy Training
Publications. This art may be reproduced only
by parishes who purchase the collection in book
or CD-ROM form. For more information go to: