Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Not the end

by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register

(From the May 1, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

With her teenage son listening in, a Mom recently told me an endearing story from his childhood. (I’ll change his name to protect my life!)

Seems that when he was a little tyke, Jason had put together a spiral notebook on the life of Jesus. He excitedly shared it with his Mother one evening. She sat with all the interest and loving attention a good mother should give as he paged through his masterpiece, offering comment and direction as he turned the pages. All the big Jesus events were there: the birth; the baptism; the sermon on the mountain, the multiplication of the loaves and fishes; the walking on the water; etc.

Of course, toward the end Jason had drawn a picture of the death of Jesus on the cross. A mean-looking Roman solider stood with lance in hand; “Jesus dies on the Cross” staggered across the top of the page. And the blood flowing from the sacred wounds were evidence of how painful the death was. Capturing her faithfulness, Jason also had drawn the Blessed Mother, bent down with sorrow at the feet of her crucified son – a veritable river of tears streaming down her cheeks.

Mom’s reaction to this particularly graphic scene was communicated in a painful, “Oh, look, Jason, Mary is crying because her son, Jesus, has died.” She must have touched the heart of her son, who himself was by this time totally absorbed by the story. Seeing his own mother in distress, he offered her a word of consolation: “Don’t cry, Mom. Jesus gets up again on the next page!”

…and, sure enough, as Jason quickly flips to the next page, there is Jesus standing on his tomb in all his heavenly glory!

“The end!” Jason announced with obvious delight.

Naturally, Jason turned five shades of red as Mom told me this story, but I could tell from the glint in his eye that he took delight in the memory. Even now as a teenager, he was proud of the fact that he knew the story of Jesus so well.

And don’t we all? – from Annunciation to death and Resurrection. Some of us may even be theological astute enough to add pages to our storybook of the ensuing Ascension and Pentecost.

Even more telling that Jason’s comment about Jesus “getting up on the next page” were his words of closure: “The end, Mom.”

History indeed would like to merely close the book on Jesus. To do so would keep him on a hero’s pedestal from which he could continue to live in memory as one among many other good men whose deeds have earned them a place in the annals of time. Even with its faith overtones, his story – despite the bumps of opposition and eventual death – has a happy ending. He gets up from death – “to live happily ever after,” as so may childhood tales end.

But “getting up again” is not the end. It is a radical new beginning of a whole new way of living. In fact, what happens in the historical life of Jesus in his Resurrection is the hinge of all human history. We forget that only to the detriment of our own personal and collective pilgrimage of faith.

The joyous Easter proclamation is not just that Jesus rose from the dead (a past event) but that he lives (a present reality). In the Gospel scene when the women came to the tomb, the angelic messenger pointed out “where they laid him.” That is, they were told what the preference of the world is: to lay Jesus to rest as a living figure of history. We all can fit the vision a dead man into our world view. People live and people (even good people) die.

“But he is not here. You will find him in Galilee,” these same women are told. That is, you will find him in the midst of your daily lives and in all places (the nations of the world). He is not to be found among the dead. He lives!

Central to the dynamic of our Christian faith is more than the fact that Jesus died and rose, but – much more importantly – that he lives. People flock to churches at Easter tide perhaps to see if the news has changed. To their delight – and maybe even to their consternation – they discover that the Good News has not changed over the centuries. If Jesus were just a past event for scholars to uncover and for archeologists to unearth, he would remain where “they” (we) have laid him. But by the power of God Jesus lives – now and forever as Risen Lord and master of history. If we personally have yet to find him, perhaps its because we’re still looking for him in the empty tomb. Dead people are found in tombs. Jesus is alive and will find us in the Galilees of the world.

(Father Savelesky is pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane. His book, Catholics Believe, is available from Harcourt Religion Publishers.) (Download an order form in pdf format to print)

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