How does the resurrection speak to “all human beings”? In what way is Christ’s rising an event that touches our deepest hopes and fears? Micheal Cilia Debono reflects upon all of this below.
If you have had the opportunity to read or instead watch the film Dune (i.e., which if you haven’t yet, you should, considering it stars some incredible actors such as Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya) you might be familiar with these phrases: “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain”.
Just from reading this, one can immediately sense that Frank Herbert, the author, had a very profound intuition into the fundamental realities of existence. Indeed, Herbert is here tapping into one of humanities lengthiest struggles since time in memorial.
We have all in one way or another experienced fear and its detrimental effects. But I think one of the core fears that we must inevitably face is that of death. So much so that it has almost become taboo to even mention in today’s culture.
Yet without sometimes even being aware of it, we incessantly experience ‘little deaths’, as Herbert puts it. Whether it be discontent at the workplace, financial issues, illness, maybe you’re mocked/humiliated or you’re going through countless quarrels at home, or perhaps, even more severe, you might feel worthless and lost – you mention it – all of these can then trigger even more fears within us and the vicious cycle begins. In other words, like Jesus, it might just well be that right now you feel somewhat ‘crucified’ – defenceless, desperate, completely and utterly exhausted.
Jesus providentially spent three hours hanging on the cross, however, most victims would last there for days – potentially even weeks under excruciating (i.e., a word which means ‘from the cross’) torment. How long have you been hanging from your cross?
Remembering The Resurrection
It is at these moments when we recall an event that occurred around two centuries ago which completely revolutionised our reality – the Resurrection. It is through the Resurrection that Jesus conquers one of, if not the most inherent and inevitable fears within us all; in turn giving life to some of the deepest desires within our hearts.
Jesus affirms that the ‘little-deaths’ and eventually the ‘big-death’ is not something to fear but rather a process of attaining the best of ourselves. As Jesus himself allegorises, in order for a tree to grow, the seed must die. From a microscopic perspective, around three-hundred million cells in a human body die every minute in order for new ones to flourish. I also just recently discovered that the pearl of an oyster is in actual fact the result of a healed wound. This is consequentially and literally what Jesus accomplishes on the cross! He gathers up our pains, our sufferings, our loses, our ‘little-deaths’ and ultimately even our ‘big-death’ and, as Tim Odell beautifully sings in his song ‘Heal’, “like an empty sail that takes the wind”, Jesus transforms them into healing, triumph and ultimately life, all through His Resurrection.
As Dr Scott Hahn, in his ambiguously titled book ‘Hope to Die’ articulates, “we were made for life. We were made for joy…and in Christ that life and joy are already ours”. Further on, Dr Hahn remarks that, “we have nothing to fear from the terrors of the world…they cannot rob us of the hope that fills us – the hope of eternal life”. And this is exactly what we all ultimately desire, whether we are aware of it or not, “eternal life”. Therefore, if I could now rephrase Herbert’s quote, “[w]here the fear has gone there will be nothing [left in the tomb]. Only [Jesus] will remain”.
In light of all this, it doesn’t come to much of a surprise that one of the first things that Jesus utters to the women coming to the tomb post-Resurrection is, “[d]o not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Matthew 28:10). Remembering the resurrection, therefore, is more than us recalling a past-event; it entails us immersing our self in the present in the events that Christ himself experienced.
Be Not Afraid
This is not, however, the first time that God has spoken to our subterranean desires, encouraging us to be free of fear. As a matter of fact, within the pages of Scripture, the phrase ‘fear not’ (or equivalent translations) appears only slightly over one-hundred times in the Old Testament, as well as about forty-four times in the New Testament.
This is, in essence, the life Jesus calls all of us to live. To live life knowing that no failure, no distress, no discontent and not even death itself has the final word. It is through this way of life that we can also boldly acclaim, “I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me”.