The Bible tells us that the fall of man was a turning point in pre-history. Human beings were expelled from Paradise…much as Lucifer and his angelic co-combatants were once expelled from Paradise. The latter from the Paradise of Heaven; the former from the Paradise of Creation. Expelled from Paradise. Expelled from living with God.
Now we would live separate from God. Yes, pardoned, clothed, graced…yet separate. And generation after generation after long generation that separation piled up memories of sin and unhappiness. The rift between God and His creation became deeper and deeper and deeper. Humanity sank into darkness.
So we human beings came to talk in the language of the night. We came to prefer to dwell in the darkness of the shadows. We developed myths and legends and tales about once upon a time when light still shined. But the darkness of that night enveloped us for so long that we human beings forgot the reality of The Light.
Humanity’s myths and legends and tales forgot the God with whom we once lived, lost touch with the Paradise that once was ours. Only bits and pieces remained unrecognizable in our myths about an Olympus, in our legends about a Valhalla, in our tales of a Great Spirit who moved among the trees in the cool breezes of the evening.
Bits and pieces remained of that deep, deep, deep memory f paradise, and those bits and pieces nudged people to talk about a day that might come when God would once again dwell among human beings. Somehow, they said, God and human beings do belong together. A Day will come when God will be our Guest once again!
But…more people preferred the myths and the legends and the new tales of a random, mechanistic universe. We preferred the language of the night to the words of hope.
There was a day in the history of humanity when Light did shine in the dark night. God indeed came to be Guest among human beings. The Divine Guest was born among human beings as human beings are born. This Guest, this God with us, toddled as toddlers do, played boyhood games as children do, ached and thrilled in adolescence as adolescents do, grew into manhood as does any human being who reaches adulthood. God came to His own…but…His own received Him not.
No, no, no, they cried, God could not be so human! No, no, no…God would not be so accommodating of obvious human failings. God would not be so unpretentious, so easily approached, so ordinary! No, no, no…God would not come to us, we should have to go to Him! So this Man cannot be God! Away with Him! Blasphemer! Fool! Deceiver! Satan!
There was a day in the history of humanity when the light of eternal hope was violently rejected. It was a day the One became conscious of the eternal distance that had developed between God and human beings. And in that consciousness of eternal distance, He cried out in other-worldly agony, “My God, My God, why!”
It was the day when humanity raised its fist against God—against the God who had come to live among us. We preferred our myths and legends and tales, played on our preferred instruments of nails, cross, death, and hell. Not Paradise.
But then…then there was also a Day, a glorious Day, when the Divine Answer came to all these human crimes. It was The Day, as at the first day and at the last; a day called Today…Paradise.
It was the Day when the unholy hands of human beings filled with anger and rage against the Light, filled with preference for myths and legends and tales, filled with generation after generation after long generation of darkness; the Day when human hands were taken in mercy by the pierced hand of God. By Him who died, yet lives again. “Behold, I am with you…always!” God, not far, far away. God near. So very, very near. Easter.
“We thought He would be the One,” said the two men as their feet dragged along the road toward home in Emmaus. “We thought He would be the One.” “We had hoped…but now the women give us more myths about an empty tomb and angels…the Eleven give tales about a body gone. We had hoped…but now only legends are springing up.” Darkness wrapped itself around the pair. And they walk…
And what does this Divine Guest, this once slain but now resurrected Guest, what does the Restorer of Paradise do? Give them a vision of the resurrection? Flash a couple miracles in their face? Strike them with lightning?
No. He speaks. Words. Words from the books—we call them Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. He speaks words from the books—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Malachi. Words. Their hearts burn, faith is already recognizing what head and heart refuse to accept.
At the house in Emmaus, the Divine Guest, still unrecognized in the darkness of their shrouded, dashed hopes; the Divine Guest takes bread, gives thanks, breaks it and gives it to them. He doesn’t have to say the next thing: “This is My Body”…the darkness is split, the eyes see. It is true! He lives! He is with them! Paradise. And the feet that had previously trudged in the dust, now ran to Jerusalem in joy!
There came a day, a day in the year of our Lord 2014. So many human beings still walk in darkness. Myths and legends and tales of a random, mechanistic universe still find preference over the voices of hope that speak of the Day that dawned long ago. There came a day, today, when the distance between God and human beings can seem so very great. And Paradise? No…not here, not now…maybe not ever…
Yet…it is still that monumental Today. What eye cannot see. What heart cannot feel. What mind cannot fully comprehend. What sense resists and denies…the ear hears, the tongue tastes. Words spoken. Bread broken. God is near! Very near!
This is Easter. It’s not simply an event of ancient times, the stuff of myth and legend and tale. Easter is Today in the Word. Easter is Today in the eating and drinking. Today God with us! Today us with Him. Today! Paradise.
Faith knows what heart and head cannot. Faith hears. Faith tastes. So faith welcomes the Divine Guest. Stay with us Lord…for the day is far spent! There came a day…Today!