Monday, June 10, 2013

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
Raising the Living Dead

Sisters and brothers, have you noticed how popular dead people have become today? Not just any kind of dead people, but dead people who appear to still be alive in some way. I’m referring, of course, to the living dead. That’s what they’re called. Or zombies. As you know, a zombie is actually a corpse that has somehow been raised. It can stumble around, but it’s flesh remains quite dead. A zombie is basically a moving pile of rotting flesh. It can’t think or speak for itself like a normal person can. It’s driven by only one thing. It has a single obsession. It has an insatiable craving for human flesh. Preferably the brain.

I know this may seem bizarre to us, sisters and brothers. But I understand that, in some places, there’s actually a considerable market for zombie paraphernalia. Zombie costumes. Zombie make-up. Zombie novels. Zombie movies... I myself recently watched the trailer for a zombie movie, a romantic comedy, entitled Warm Bodies. Some of you might have watched the movie. The story intrigued me. It’s about a male zombie named R–he can’t remember the rest of his name–who is brought back to full human life after he meets and falls in love with a girl. As R’s relationship with his sweetheart deepens, his once cold rigid flesh gradually warms up and softens. Slowly, beginning with his heart, blood starts flowing again through his whole body...

But why, sisters and brothers? Why do you think there’s this immense interest in the living dead? I can’t be sure. But perhaps the reason is to be found in the way many of us modern city-dwellers live. Perhaps it’s got something to do with how so many of us seem to live very zombie-like lives. Lives driven by one obsession or another. Whether it be for money or success. For public recognition or personal achievement. Or simply for accumulating more and more possessions. All those different things, with which we furnish our homes, and clothe our bodies, and occupy our time…

Like zombies, much of our daily routines revolve around repetitive actions, whose deeper meaning we often fail to grasp. At least not in a way that gives us life. Or brings us joy. At daybreak we jerk awake to the screaming of an alarm. Then it’s off to work, or school, or wherever else we need to be. We spend the day performing the various mundane duties expected of us. And then collapse into bed, exhausted, long after the sun has gone down. Only to repeat the whole process when the alarm goes off again the next morning. And, of course, throughout each day, we’ll be fiddling with our little gadgets. Staring into our hi-res retina-display screens. Oblivious to whatever may be happening to those around us. According to the 19th century American poet, Henry David Thoreau, the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. A more contemporary, if less lyrical, translation might be this: Many of us live like zombies...

All of which should make us grateful for what our Mass readings are telling us today. For even if it is true that many of us live like zombies, perhaps it’s also true that we all still dream of a different, a much more meaningful, far less lonely and obsessive existence. A movie like Warm Bodies may well be testimony to this fact. The million dollar question is, of course, How? How do zombies get raised to life? This is the question that the scriptures address today.

In each of our readings, we find people being brought back to life. In the first reading, the prophet Elijah raises a Gentile widow’s son from the dead. And, after witnessing his incredible performance, the woman recognises Elijah for who he really is. Now I know, she says, you are a man of God and the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth itself. For the widow, only the Word of God could work such a miracle. So it comes as no surprise when we find Jesus–the Word of God Become Flesh–doing the very same thing in the gospel. Like Elijah before him, Jesus demonstrates his mastery over death itself. A mastery even more awe-inspiring than Elijah's. For Elijah had to stretch himself out over the dead boy three times in order to bring him to life. Jesus does it with far less effort. Moved with compassion by a widow’s grief at the loss of her only son, Jesus utters a single command, and restores the boy to his mother.

But, as incredible as these miracles may be, they would still seem rather far removed from our experience–when was the last time you saw a dead body being raised?–if not for what we find in the second reading. Here, St. Paul writes movingly about how his whole life was changed when he met Jesus. Paul, as you know, had been a fully trained, piously practising Jew. A zealous Pharisee. Someone who was obsessed enough about his faith to go about persecuting Christians. (We can get obsessed by many different things. Even very holy things.) People whom he considered heretics. But then, one day, everything changed. God called me through his grace, Paul writes, and chose to reveal his Son in me. In another of his letters, Paul likens this experience of encountering Jesus to that of a child born abnormally (1 Corinthians 15:8 NJB). For Paul, the experience of meeting the Crucified and Risen Christ was the beginning a new life. Not unlike the experience of R, the zombie in the movie. Who came to life only after meeting and falling in love with his girlfriend.

This then, sisters and brothers, is the power that we are celebrating today. The power of Christ to raise the dead to life. Not just the dead whose bodies lie in our cemetery plots. Or whose ashes fill our columbarium niches. But also the living dead. Those who continue to shuffle around on the face of this earth, leading lives–often very busy lives–filled with quiet desperation. Dreaming all the while of a day when someone might impart to them the power to enjoy a fuller, more meaningful, less lonely, less anxious existence. This, sisters and brothers, is the very thing that each of us has received at our Baptism. This is the very thing that we gather to celebrate at this Mass. The revelation of God’s unsurpassable love for us, made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord. The same power that we are reminded to cultivate, through daily interaction with the Lord. The same power that we will be sent to exercise and to impart to others, once our celebration is complete this evening. When we will once again hear those familiar words: Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord...

Sisters and brothers, even if many people do live like zombies, as Christians, we believe that we hold the power to raise them to life. The power that comes from meeting, falling and remaining in love with Christ Jesus our Lord.

What more can we do to enjoy this power? What more can we do to share it with those who need it most today?

1 comment:

  1. May CHRIST (the NEW LIFE) be first resurrected in us (who sometimes live like living zombies) and may we learn to live like St Paul who says:

    IT is not I who live, but CHRIST who lives in me.

    may we become more aware of GOD PRESENT WITHIN US and let HIM unleash HIS POWER within us.

    Pax et Bonum
    Seeing IS Believing


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