Going Through a Wall for Us
#GoingThroughTheWallForUs is the podcast for April 8, 2018. Jesus appears through locked doors presenting a physical body. What exactly is going on here and what does it mean? Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #John20 #FredAstaire #GingerRogers #ShallWeDance #Memory #Knowing #SpiritualBody #Resurrection
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 4/8/2018 The 2nd Sunday of Easter.
Please pause this audio and read John 20:19-31.
The way you tip your hat,
The way you sip your tea,
They can’t take that away from me.
The way your smile just beams,
The way you sing off key,
The way you haunt my dreams,
No, they can’t take that away from me.
These are just a few lines from the famous George and Ira Gershwin tune that premiered in 1937 and was originally sung by Fred Astaire, the great cinematic dancer, in the film “Shall We Dance”. It is sung by Astaire on the deck of a ferry crossing from New Jersey to Manhattan and speaks of the upcoming parting between Astaire and actress Ginger Rogers. Astaire is clearly recounting the things he will never forget about the character played by his frequent partner, Ginger Rogers. Those things that he remembers are things that cannot be taken away from him BECAUSE they have been transformed from the realm of the physical to the realm of the spiritual, in his memory.
When I teach about what we are doing at the Eucharist, I often tell people that “remembering makes it so.” This is because humans have the ability to remember something and be transported back to that moment. We smell the smells, hear the sounds, have our heart rate increase or decrease, feel the touch, see the sights when we remember. We often say, “I can remember it like it was yesterday.” What humans can re-visit in the memory transports them back to the place in time when they experienced it. What if we actually went there with our being? What does that mean “with our being”? What kind of physical existence do we have when we believe in Jesus Christ?
Fr. Mark Shea said about this passage and about St. Thomas, “When physical is present, it monopolizes the consciousness.” We are people who crave the physical and fear its departure. Yet, what we have in Jesus is something much different than what we have grown to experience in the physical. Here is the scenario:
The disciples return to the upper room and lock the doors so that they can protect themselves from the physical harm of the Jewish leaders. The door serves as a barrier to protect them. As they gather on Sunday evening in the Upper Room, Jesus comes to them physically. Jesus is present physically with them, yet his body is not subject to the limits of physics. The locked door which can stop the Jewish Leaders does not stop him. He appears with the wounds in his hands, feet, and side.
Because Mary Magdalene and the Disciples know Jesus, meaning they know that he is the Messiah, the one who is to save the world, everything is coming together. The signs, the mighty works, the times he said he would be killed and rise again, his going to the Father, his going away and returning, the fulfillment of the scriptures, Mary Magdalene’s report about seeing Jesus before he went to the Father, it all makes sense now. He went willingly to his death so that he could transform death, transform his physical body to a spiritualized physical body, and transform reality.
It may not have hit them, but in the passage just before this, he said he could not be touched because he had not yet gone to the Father, but now he is allowing people to touch him. So, this would mean he is sitting at the Right Hand of the Father while also standing in front of them. There are no bounds or limits on a body in the resurrection because spiritual and physical become one in Jesus Christ. The separation of God, who is spirit, and humanity, which is physical is gone. Said positively, God and humanity, spiritual and physical are now one.
Now that Jesus’ body has been spiritualized and defeated death, there is nothing that anyone can do to his body. Doors locked or unlocked, Jesus has access to all of us. That would mean then, that we also have access to him. We can experience him in this new way. Our understanding of all things physical should change. Everything has been renewed and has a deeper meaning.
We usually do not believe things unless the physical makes them present to us. We are like Thomas, who essentially said, “I will believe it when I experience it.” We have been trained to think this way. Everything has to be in our experienced universe to be true to us. This is the basis of Rene Descartes famous dictum, “I think, therefore I am.” Rather, we believe the other way around, “I exist, therefore I think.” This is what Fr. Shea means when he says, “when physical is present, it monopolizes consciousness.”
The irony in this is that Jesus shows us, and Fred Astaire confirms (thank the Lord), that things are not permanent in the physical. It is when they have been spiritualized that they last forever. Their permanence lasts in being joined with the spiritual. It is God who lasts forever. Our entry into forever-ness is in God. Our realization of his permanence and the temporary nature of our bodies is critically important to our belief. That belief is critical to our transformation in baptism into Christ. If we are in Christ, part of Christ, then we will have this spiritualized physical body in the Resurrection of the Dead. We become part of Christ through this joining of the spiritual and the physical in Baptism.
Thomas reveals to us a truth: believing in Jesus Christ changes everything. We enter into the reality that there are more ways to belief that just seeing. There are more ways to experience life than just through the senses. There is through the spirit that the Lord God put within us. When it is joined with his spirit, we can go anywhere, in any time.
In being a spiritual director, I read and see spiritual masters who meditate to still their mind and detach from this world. They do so because of this spiritualized physical reality. They go away to other places in history and time, like to the moment of Jesus’ dying on the Cross.
This spiritual existence with Jesus Christ is the constant. It is the place we go when we need to lock the doors. It is the transport that takes us back to the Last Supper, or to the sacrifice on the Cross when we “do this in memory of” him. It is the reality that is our current reality if we will have it, trust it, believe it. It is the reality that awaits us as a consummated reality at the Resurrection of the Dead. Can you believe it? Or, do you need to see his hands and feet. If you believe it, then they can’t take that away from you.
When you stand up for truth when lies are locking you in, they can’t take the reality of faith away from you. When you are overcome by the need in the world and don’t know where to start, they can’t take the reality of faith away from you. When you are facing hopelessness and hopeless odds, your escape is not a physical escape, it is a reappropriation of the spiritual physicality of Jesus Christ who comes to you anywhere, anytime: they can’t take Him away from us. When you are alone, you are never alone: they can’t take Him away from us. When we are living out the mission to love the unlovable world, they can’t take Him away from us. He is our Joy. He is our Resurrection. He is our Life. He is our Everything. He is Alive. Amen. Alleluia. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2018.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian