|Acts 17:15, 22--18:1
Psalm 148:1-2, 11-12, 13, 14
Today’s readings speak to the truth of the resurrection which Paul proclaimed even though it caused many Athenians to write him off as a crackpot. These supremely rational people would have preferred a Jesus who was merely a nice teacher of morality, sort of like Gandhi.
But even the most rational of Christians 2,000 years later intuit that the resurrection is not only real but profoundly important in our lives.
I’ve been feeling this strongly for the last few days because of a joyful and moving birthday party that I attended last week for my friend, Mike, a beloved Omaha judge who had been dying of a rare form of cancer. Mike’s struggle hit his hundreds of friends especially hard because he has always enlivened any gathering with his boisterous good humor and wonderful stories like the time he tended Bobby Kennedy’s dog during Mass in the 1968 campaign.
At Christmas, Mike underwent successful radical experimental treatment at the National Institute of Health. Today he’s back at work, cancer free and just about everyone who has ever met him is rejoicing. Several hundred people filled a church hall to celebrate a birthday we never thought our friend would reach.
We knew the party would be hilarious because Mike is. The roast/tribute lived up to expectations but Mike’s response probably surprised some people. He said simply that he’s never been a publicly pious guy but that the most important factor in his recovery has been his religious faith and growing relationship with Jesus Christ. He also credited the love and prayers of his family and friends.
That took guts, thought I, as I listened to Mike. We middle-aged Catholics are much more comfortable joking about our heritage than speaking about our deepest beliefs.
I was reminded of a homily that got me through a particularly difficult period. The priest said that no matter what form of “death” we are experiencing, we believe there will always be a resurrection. We trust that bad times and events are not the final word. Certainly we suffer and mourn but we believe that one day we will celebrate and laugh.
Just as we did at that party.
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