Easter Sunday, "He has risen from the grave."
For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. JN 20:1-9
So the Disciples of Christ had some trouble understanding a few things… SHOCKER.
As a raised Christian who has decided to accept the Catholic faith, I don't always understand scripture like the disciples. Especially topics surrounding the Resurrection of the Body or the death of the body. I may be overstepping my interpretive authority, but I believe that it wasn't Jesus' having to rise from the Dead that was unclear. More so, I think the Gospel of John is trying to tell us that the disciples did not yet understand why Jesus rising from the dead had to happen the way that it did.
Was all the suffering part on purpose?
Without question, the humiliation, beatings, and carrying of the heavy cross was an accident by God, right?
Did he have to die so young?
Why did It have to be so traumatic and challenging?
Ultimately, why does our life have moments of suffering that seem inexcusable?
I don't know about you, reader, but I began to understand these questions on April 12, 2019, fully. Three years ago, I experienced the transformative funeral of the most extraordinary man that I have known to walk the Earth, my grandfather. This was not the first time I had experienced death or a funeral. But moreover, it was the first time I felt death creating a significant shift in the trajectory of my life. In the most concise way possible, like the disciples who found the tomb empty, I experienced a purpose that I could not fully understand at that moment. While I felt my grandfather's death was purposeful because I am Christian, I also felt that somehow his passing had to have been an accident. I knew his time was coming, but…
was there something we could have done for his time to be longer?
did my last conversation with him have to be where I could only hear his breathing and not his powerful, comforting voice?
could he not have died the powerful superhero that my family knew? Instead, we had to watch as illness took over his body before passing?
Ultimately, I settled myself to believe that how my grandfather died was exactly how it happened.
His death was on Purpose.
I share this personal story with you because it is mainly why I have focused on the above passage from the Gospel of John. Like the disciples, I experience so much here on Earth that I do not understand. The disciples who found the empty tomb of Jesus were heartbroken and in a state of disbelief when they approached the tomb. When my grandfather passed, I, too, was heartbroken and approached his funeral date with apprehension. However, I think that the experience of death exemplifies God's purpose for both the disciples and me. Still, it is up to us to live in his purpose and not see the unexpected areas of life as accidents or coincidences. Since college, I have thought that most of us, like the disciples, find death and Resurrection so tricky because most of us live here on Earth as if our eternity is here. We mourn death because we are so focused on earthly life that we ignore that we all have to go one day. Yet, no matter the circumstances surrounding our exit, death will happen and is not an accident.
Despite my shortcomings in communicating the above idea, the Spirit has put a thought on my mind for consideration as a closing. Take your time and think about your answers to the following questions.
Have You ever heard the phrase Accidents don't happen?
What about Everything Happens for a reason?
OR, for those bible readers, maybe you are like my Mom, whose favorite verse is Romans 8:28 (look it Up)
No matter which of these you identify with most, I want to introduce another phrase from my childhood that may be less common yet encompasses all three of the questions above. It is my intention that you take this phrase with you after reading this and use it in your approach to the mysteries of life here on Earth.
That phrase is "was it an accident or on purpose?"
Depending on what caused this phrase to be uttered by my parents growing up, my answer was extremely crucial as how I answered determined what the outcome would be for me. For example: if "I forgot" to do my homework and when asked about this, I said it was an accident, immediately the adult at the moment (Mom, Dad, Grandparent) would say something along the lines of "forgetting is not an accident, it is an excuse." Quickly I realized that often the authority figures in my life were not asking solely whether or not doing my homework was my intention. Instead, they were questioning whether or not the unexpected thing that happened was something I could have prevented through careful thought or something that was out of my control.
We cannot control all aspects of our lives, but we can choose to see the moments that bring us pain as willed by God and not accidental. For me, it was my grandfather’s passing. From the moment after I left that funeral, I knew that I had a new purpose for my family, present and in the future. I cannot help but think that the disciples felt the same way after seeing the empty tomb of Jesus. Also, if we correlate my childhood phrase to our eventual last days, it would follow that on the day of Judgement, God would ask us, "was the life we lived an accident or on purpose?"
Remember, the intention is not what is essential. Careful thought every step of the way is what is critical. The so-called accidents (moments we don't understand) in life are our moments to recognize God's purposeful will (He had to rise from the dead so we can too).
How will you answer? "Oops, I forgot," or "Yes, I have lived my life on purpose just like Jesus!"
Authored: Thomas James Nash, II. Religion teacher, Archbishop Carroll High School
If you are able, please donate to Archbishop Carroll High School Religion Department as they continue to evangelize our young people. Press DONATE PAGE.