In the first part of our reflections, we examined the first two preternatural gifts, that of Infused Knowledge and Integrity. These two preternatural gifts concerned our minds and our wills, respectively. Yet Christ did not just sanctify our intellect and our wills. He did the same with our bodies, particularly with our suffering and our death.
By entering into his own Passion, He gave our suffering and death meaning, and by rising from the dead, He crushed death’s hold on our lives.
Life seems like one trial, one time of suffering after another. Our days are darkened by sadness and tears. It did not have to be so. Adam and Eve dwelt in Eden without fear of suffering thanks to the preternatural gift of impassibility, which kept them from physical suffering. No hunger or thirst, no aches or sickness; everything they needed was provided for them.
At least it was before they ate from the tree. In doing so they grasped rather than received, and welcomed suffering into their world. So it is when we try to push God around and steal His authority in our lives.
The consequence in the Fall is an obvious one. Eve, God declares, will bring forth her children in great pain.
Few facets of our lives exemplify pain more than the reality of disease. All are touched by sickness. It is the most graphic icon of suffering. The spiritual life is filled with images of sickness and death in relation to sin. We sing of our “sin-sick soul” and speak of Christ as our spiritual physician, an image He Himself used.
Christ did heal our sins. To show He could, since sin itself is immaterial, He also healed people’s bodies. These are perhaps the most famous miracles of Jesus and are certainly the most compelling. Sometimes He merely commanded the healing, and it was. Other times he touched with His hands, or used matter, like clay and spit, to heal them. In all cases, our Creator reached out to us to heal our brokenness. In doing so He embraced our pain.
The fullness of this embrace is the Cross, where we see Christ emptying Himself of any vestige of glory. He hung before all, bruised, beaten, bleeding from every inch of His body. There is no question of whether He suffered. Yet His suffering was not merely physical, though that was the most obvious manifestation of it. He suffered in mind, facing the psychological attacks of a dark cell and the roaring blasphemies of the crowd, and the abuse, we might even say sexual abuse, of being stripped naked and hung exposed before all passersby. He suffered in His soul, as all but a few of His friends and family abandoned Him. He even felt the spiritual pain, the dark night of spiritual loneliness felt by the greatest of saints, as captured in His praying Psalm 22: “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?”
Christ knew not only His suffering, but the suffering of every one of us. We can turn to Him in our suffering, and He will carry our cross with us.
“You will not die,” lied the serpent. Our first parents believed him rather than God, and they took the fruit, and they ate of it, and welcomed into their lives death. To be sure, they did not drop dead at the first bite of the fruit; if they were modern skeptics, they might accept that as proof that the serpent was right and the Almighty was wrong. Yet they did die that day. They lost their physical Immortality, the last of the preternatural gifts. They died a spiritual death, committing the first mortal sin. They also died in their relationship, for once they ate, “Their eyes were opened and they saw they were naked,” and they immediately began to hide their bodies, which they had given to each other as gift in marriage.
In such mortality, they left Eden. Death spread through their family like a viral infection. Their own son, Cain, commits the first murder. Adam and Eve accepted death from their own free will; Cain forced it upon Abel.
Christ’s coming into the world was, primarily, to save us from sin and death. To symbolize His power over spiritual death, that is, sin, Christ performed the most fantastic of His miracles: raising people from the dead. The author of life has control over death, and He demonstrates it in beautiful ways.
He raises Jairus’ daughter with the powerful phrase “Talitha koum,” meaning “Little girl, arise!” He brings back the widow’s son with a touch and a word: “Young man, I tell you, arise!” Perhaps most movingly, He raises his friend Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, by calling him out from the tomb. It is in the context of Lazarus’ raising that Christ discusses why He can bring men back from the dead: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, even though he should die, shall live.”
Christ shows His role as the source of resurrection most profoundly in His own Resurrection. Here is one of the greatest mysteries of our Faith, that the immortal God laid down His life for us sinful humans. He did truly lay down His life; He said that He lays down His life, and that “No one takes it from me.” He allows the torturing, the beating, the blasphemy, and the murder. He lets the most horrific act in human history, that of decide, to happen. Nature saw the evil in this act, even if man did not. Was there not darkness and an earthquake at the death of Our Lord?
And yet, as in our own story, death is not the end.
The previous healing miracles, where Christ raises others from the dead, are only shadows of the greatest miracle He performed, that of His own Resurrection. The previous miracles showed Christ raising someone else, for mere man cannot bring Himself back from the dead. Yet Christ does bring Himself back.
Secondly, the previous recipient of Christ’s resurrecting grace later died, at least a physical death In that sense, their rising might be more of a miraculous resuscitation, rather than a resurrection in the full theological sense. Yet Christ rose “to die no more” (Romans 6:9). He does not die a second death, but rather rises to Heaven, where God and Man can be united together in paradise for all eternity.
As it was (supposed to be) in the Beginning. Is now. And will be forever. Amen.