The Word Embodied


If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above” (Col 3:2)

The postmodern world has problems with resurrection. It has problems with anything transcendent.

This life is all there is. You only go around once. Grab all the gusto. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Bound by immediate distraction, enthralled by skills of indulgence, we are jarred by talk of heaven. It is inappropriate.

Discomfort with transcendence churns in us Christians as well.

We want to make good sense of our faith, especially to those who think our beliefs a bit outdated. Our own discourse becomes less a matter of heaven and hell, forgiveness and redemption, than of self-fulfillment, illness and recovery, and how to be our own best friends.

Sometimes there even seems to be a hidden assumption lurking in our theology and ritual: This life is all there is. And—although more rarely—complaints can still be heard from premodern survivors that they rarely hear homilies and sermons about the four last things.

We are very much a people of this age, the here and now.

But to the extent that we partake of postmodern sensibility, we are on a collision course with the content of our worship.

In fact, if we ever thought for a minute about the reality we claim is taking place in our Eucharists, we might run for cover.

Or cover it up.

Do we speak much to each other about the fact that there is something much more astounding than warm fellowship happening in our churches? Do we expend much energy over a sacramental reality that is more stirring than music and crafted homilies? Do we admit that the act of our liturgy is more significant than its style and decor?

The Eucharist is about our salvation and our destiny, or it is nothing. It is the pledge of eternal forgiveness. And Communion is not a mere bread for earthly flesh.

Quite the contrary, it is nutrition for transformed bodies. It is the sustenance of wayfarers on their way beyond this life. It is the bread of angels, the food of heaven.

Easter is Eucharistic because it is the promise of an eternal banquet. Christ, having entered into the depths of our humanity, even to the extent of dying its death, is claimed as risen.

Of course there are people who say that this cannot have happened. It was projection, a fabrication, a corporate wish-fulfillment. But the accounts of his followers seem quite otherwise. Something most real had happened to them. They said that their master had appeared to them bodily.

It is their witness which is at the origins of our faith.

If we take soberly enough the passion and death of our own lives, of humanity itself, and of Jesus who is the eternal Word made flesh, we will more fully appreciate the radical nature of our faith, especially at Easter time.

We believe there is more than meets the eye. There is more than the earth in all its might, more than our projects and exploits in all their splendor.

“We believe in the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.”

Say “Amen,” somebody.

John Kavanaugh, SJ

Father Kavanaugh was a professor of Philosophy at St. Louis University in St. Louis. He reached many people during his lifetime.


**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson