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Starting Point

Seeing with resurrection eyes


In the middle of a Missouri spring, it is not hard to believe in life after death. Born and raised an urban girl, I have only recently experienced what so many in my parish have known all their lives: food from seed, beauty from bulbs, trees from nuggets that look like nothing more significant than stones. One needn’t look farther for a miracle than in my husband’s garden -- raspberries, tomatoes, new potatoes, lettuce, asparagus!

I watch my almost-grown sons laugh together or read or listen to music. From elements invisible to the eye a life is formed, grows and becomes a human baby. From a baby comes a child, then a youth, then a man or woman, and we are privileged to witness this miracle of life unfold right before our eyes.

The potential for the tomato or the tree or the human being is in the simplest element -- the seed. It is potent, filled with life, ripe with possibilities.

The child in the womb spends all its energy developing that which will never be needed in the womb. What need has a womb-bound child of eyes, hands, lips? But upon birth into this world, the child beholds the face of the beloved, reaches toward the beloved with outstretched hands, takes nourishment with the lips and speaks: “I love you, Mommy.”

Just so, we who are growing in the womb of this world, what need have we of giving hands, visionary eyes, hunger for heavenly food, and hearts full of love, overflowing into words of gratitude? Loving hearts get broken in a harsh world, but God through Ezekiel promises a fleshy heart to replace our hearts of stone. Loving words are ignored, but we sing, “Where there is charity and love, there is God.” Visionary eyes are blinded by the practical, but God through Isaiah promises that the young will dream dreams and the old will see visions. And giving hands? Such foolishness, yet we are told, “Blessed are those who make peace, who comfort the afflicted, who share their bread with the hungry.”

We are being readied for a birth into a land where love is the common language and gift is the commerce, where eyes will behold the face of God and each other as we really are, and songs of gratitude and praise are always on our lips. We are being formed for the kingdom. Fed for the kingdom.

My former archbishop, John May, died too soon. We gathered as an archdiocese to celebrate what we knew was a farewell Mass, when he was too weak to deliver his homily. Another bishop read his words, and we heard our beloved bishop’s last wish for us. He charged us to form “colonies of Heaven.”

What a lovely image! Here in the colonies, we bring with us the best of the motherland: our language and laws, our homely customs and our native food. Here in the colonies, the fleshy, feeling heart is exactly what is needed to live the law of love; words of gratitude are exactly what language we people of the covenant must speak. Here we are invited to feast on heavenly food, on Eucharist, on God.

In these colonies of Heaven, we are invited to see with resurrection eyes -- to see each other as God-filled, as a child of God, as a brother or sister in Christ. Here in this fine company, we wait for birth from the womb of this world into that bright land beyond the shadow of the cross.

Yes, in the middle of a Missouri spring, where all that once appeared as dead, has come to life again, it is easy to believe in life after death.

Paige Byrne Shortal is a pastoral associate in a parish in rural Missouri. Her e-mail address is pbs@fidnet.com

National Catholic Reporter, April 27, 2001