Prayer of the Day: O God, you gave your only Son to suffer death on the cross for our redemption, and by his glorious resurrection you delivered us from the power of death. Make us die every day to sin, that we may live with him forever in the joy of the resurrection, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
“Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Acts 10:34-35.
Saint Peter understands that God knows no partiality. In so doing, he declared the ancient gods of nation, blood and soil dead. He declared all claims of national sovereignty null and void. Whatever salutary purpose humanly drawn borders might serve, they cannot be invoked to deny anyone access to safety, nourishment, shelter or any other basic human need. Henceforth, people are judged by how their actions square with what is acceptable to God. The “nations” will be judged solely by how well or poorly they treat the most vulnerable in their midst. See Matthew 25:31-46. Once that sinks in, the world cannot help but know that its priorities have to change!
Alright. But what does any of this have to do with Easter Sunday and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Everything. Understand that nobody in the First Century doubted the power of God (or the gods) to raise someone from death. The ancients did not suffer from the conceptual handicaps imposed on us moderns who find resurrection incompatible with our mechanistic view of the universe. The resurrection of Jesus was not remarkable insofar as what happened, but to whom it happened. Our religion would look very different had God raised Alexander the Great, Augustes Caesar, Peter the Great, Winston Churchill, General Patton or some other great personage. In fact, however, God raised the man who never wielded a weapon, never wore a crown, never held any political office or aspired to any position of leadership. The one God raised was poor and belonged to a people having no substantial legal standing with the government under which he lived. God raised the one who had the audacity to confront the might of empire and the machinery of oppression armed only with words and and acts of mercy and peace. And he lost. He was rejected by the leaders of his people, deserted by his disciples and executed by the state. Jesus was, by every reasonable standard of success, a failure.
But Saint Peter would have us know that it is not our judgment that counts, but the judgement of God. In raising Jesus from the death sentence we impose upon him and people like him, our judgments about right and wrong, power and powerlessness, justice and injustice, rights, privileges and entitlements are overturned. This Jesus, says Saint Peter, “is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.”
The resurrection of Jesus is meaningless unless you know about the life Jesus lived and the way he died. So it is that Saint Peter begins by pointing out to his audience how “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” He then went on to declare that Jesus was duly executed by state authority, thereby letting his hearers know in no uncertain terms that the good Jesus did was an intolerable afront to the powers that be. His death was therefore entirely predictable. It is what happens when powerless people speak truth to power. That much is hardly surprising. What shocked Peter’s audience is the assertion that God raised this Jesus, that God is not on the side of the global, societal or ecclesiastical winners, but on the side of the vulnerable, the outcast, the refugee, the sick and the homeless. “God,” Saint Peter tells us, is not who we thought God was. God’s priorities are not what we thought they were.
This is good news because it means neither the powers that wield the specter of death nor even death itself need be feared. And how much more so our lesser fears. Jesus’ resurrection is good news because there is a lot of crap we don’t have to worry about anymore. We don’t have to worry about what college we do or do not get into. We don’t have to worry about getting to that much coveted Nirvana of “financial security.” We don’t need to worry about what we look like in the latest style or whether we are wearing anything close to the latest style. We don’t need to sleep behind locked doors with a loaded revolver next to the bed. We don’t have to worry about whether the nation we live in has enough bombs and missiles to protect itself. We don’t need to obsess over who other people love and marry or any of those other culture war issues that get so many so called Christians’ underwear in a bunch. We don’t need to agonize over the past or fret about the future. That frees us up for what matters.
And what matters? How about the 6.6 million refugees worldwide who are living in refugee camps in squalid conditions without any nation or people willing to claim them as its own? What about the forty-five hundred children confined in adult prisons exposed to ruthless abuse on a daily basis? What about the LGBTQ+ kids in Florida and other states now subject to legislatively approved bullying and exclusion? The list could go on to include aged and infirm persons institutionalized in substandard long term care institutions; homeless folks who are prohibited by law from begging for their subsistence; and many others who have been deprived of even a voice to cry out for justice. These are the priorities for which Jesus’ resurrection frees us up to address with undivided attention.
Here us a prayer/poem by Michel Quoist reflecting the radical reorganization of priorities occasioned by Jesus’ resurrection.
Lord, I Have Time
I went out, Lord.
People were coming and going,
Walking and running.
Everything was rushing:
Cars, trucks, the street, the whole town.
People were rushing not to waste time.
They were rushing after time,
To catch up with time.
To gain time.
Good-bye, Sir, excuse me, I haven’t time.
I’ll come back. I can’t wait. I haven’t time.
I must end this letter–I haven’t time.
I’d love to help you, but I haven’t time.
I can’t accept, having no time.
I can’t think, I can’t read, I’m swamped, I haven’t time.
I’d like to pray, but I haven’t time.
You understand, Lord,
They simply haven’t the time.
The child is playing,
He hasn’t time right now…Later on…
The schoolboy has his homework to do,
He hasn’t time…Later on…
The student has his courses,
And so much work…Later on…
The young married man has his new house;
He has to fix it up…He hasn’t time…Later on…
The grandparents have their grandchildren.
They haven’t time…Later on…
They are ill, they have their treatments,
They haven’t time…Later on…
They are dying, they have no…
Too late!…They have no more time!
And so all people run after time, Lord.
They pass through life running–
Hurried, jostled, overburdened, frantic,
And they never get there. They haven’t time.
In spite of all their efforts
They’re still short of time,
Of a great deal of time.
Lord, you must have made a mistake in your calculations,
There is a big mistake somewhere.
The hours are too short.
Our lives are too short.
You who are beyond time, Lord,
You smile to see us fighting it.
And you know what you are doing.
You make no mistakes in your distribution of time to men.
You give each one time to do what you want him to do.
But we must not lose time,
For it is a gift that you give us,
But a perishable gift,
A gift that does not keep.
Lord, I have time,
I have plenty of time,
All the time that you give me,
The years of my life,
The days of my life,
The days of my years,
The hours of my days,
They are all mine.
Mine to fill, quietly, calmly,
But to fill completely, up to the brim,
To offer them to you, that of their insipid water
You may make a rich wine
Such as you made once in Cana of Galilee.
I am not asking you tonight, Lord,
For time to do this and then that,
But for your grace to do conscientiously,
In the time that you give me,
What you want me to do.
Source: Quoist, Michel, Prayers (c. 1963 Sheed & Ward, Inc.) Translated by Agnes M. Forsyth and Anne Marie de Cammaille. Michel Quoist (1921-1997) was ordained a priest in1947. A French Catholic of the working-class, Quoist reveled in presenting Christianity as part of gritty daily reality, rather than in forms of traditional piety. He was for many years pastor to a busy city parish in Le Havre, France serving a working class neighborhood and developing ministries to young people through Catholic Action groups. Prayers, the book from which the above poem was taken, has been translated from the original French into several languages including Hungarian, Polish, Chinese, Portuguese, Swedish and English.