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What If Resurrection Is A Choice?

"What if the resurrection was a choice?"

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I was stunned when my professor posed this question in the last seconds of class the other day. She invited us to think about this over the Triduum weekend ahead, particularly as we prepare for a class unit on Christology beginning next week. Upon this striking concluding inquiry, the other students began to fold their laptops, pack their books, and put on their coats. My only movement was the slight tilting of my head, and eventually the fluttering of my pen as I scribbled this question into the margins of my notebook: What if resurrection was a choice?

Recently, I have been struggling to believe in the resurrection -- perhaps more than ever before. While I have faith in the historical reality of Christ's rising from the dead, my convictions about the resurrection have long centered on a once unshakable belief in the persistence of the resurrection in our world today. In fact, it has not seemed so crazy to believe in the historical resurrection of an incarnate God because of the resurrection I have witnessed around me: triumphant hope amid overwhelming suffering, love, and forgiveness in the face of persecution, resistance to injustice, and the slow but real irradiation of evil that occurs in some seemingly impossible circumstances. Christ's resurrection mirrors the miraculous instances of resurrection all around us.

Or so I thought. These days, alongside many Catholics, I am struggling to believe that suffering can be radically transformed for good. That love still has the radical power to replace sin and evil. Once again, we find many church leaders implicated in unthinkable abuse -- the abuse of innocent young people, and the abuse of power that allowed many to ignore this crime. What's more, we find accusations that this abuse has permeated nearly every level of the Church hierarchy. While reading the news and talking to fellow Catholics during the past two weeks, I have found myself covered by the darkness of Good Friday, wondering more than ever before: How will resurrection ever come? How will this church possibly experience resurrection?

Resurrection, of course, is not the erasing of pain and wrongdoing. These things are irrevocable. Resurrection is transformation through and after the suffering that we find ourselves amidst. Yet with so many loud and influential Catholic leaders resisting the exhortation to transform the church in light of this pervasive abuse and suffering, I am left to wonder if Easter morning will ever come for this institution.

That's why it struck me: "What if resurrection was a choice?" What if Christ had to choose new life? Had to choose transformation? What if Christ had to decide that he would embrace a new, second incarnation, one apparently unrecognizable to those long-time friends he met on the road to Emmaus in this Sunday's readings? What if we find ourselves amidst a Holy Saturday -- a time when we are faced with the decision of whether we will choose transformation and the risk of another incarnation, or whether we will remain closed off in the tomb? What if resurrection still is a choice?

And how are we to choose it? How am I to choose it? In a conversation after the Stations of the Cross service on Friday, I was speaking with a wise young adult at the church where I work. We were discussing the headlines, our disappointment, our bewilderment with the day's comments of Catholic officials. Then he revealed what seemed to be a decisive insight. "You know," he said, "I have realized that I cannot control anything that any church leader says. But I can choose to live a life of integrity and compassion and goodness. That's what I can do."

In many ways, I am powerless to choose resurrection for our church. Much of that depends on the consciences of others with whom I will never correspond. But I can -- and perhaps I must -- choose resurrection in my own Catholic faith. Resurrection in my own church community. Resurrection for the life I have made, and been given.

Jessica Coblentz is pursuing a Masters of Theological Studies at Harvard Divinity School. She is also the pastoral minister of young adult ministry at the Paulist Catholic Center in downtown Boston. She is also a contributor to the From the Pews in the Back blog and you can follow more of her writing at www.jessicacoblentz.com.

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