I recently read a reflection by Gabe Huck in Celebration where he ponders the question, “What do we mean when we say Christ defeated death?” Huck quotes from a scene in Walker Percy’s book The Second Coming in which his protagonist, Will Barrett, finally comes to terms with life and death:
Now he snapped his fingers and nodded to himself, for all the world like a man who has hit upon the solution to a problem which had vexed him for years.
Ha, there is a secret after all, he said. But to know the secret answer, you must first know the secret question. The question is, who is the enemy?
Not to know the name of the enemy is already to have been killed by him.
Ha, he said, dancing, snapping his fingers and laughing and hooting ha hoo hee, jumping up and down and socking himself, but I do know. I know. I know the name of the enemy.
The name of the enemy is death, he said, grinning and shoving his hands in his pockets. Not the death of dying, but the living death.
But without naming the enemy, all death’s guises and disguises, how are we to turn our backs on death as it works its way in our times? How are we to expose death, and renounce and grapple with death in all those guises? Here are some of the guises of death at work in our place and time. Death in our politics, in our hierarchies of any kind, in our pieties, in our entertainments and our love of distractions, in our use of the earth and air and water. Death in our assaults on language, in our comfortable choices, in the narrow focus of our lives, in our subtle entitlements, in our own precious safety put ever before the care of others. Death in our money and how we use it, in being comfortable in the homeland of the empire, ion being too busy to look and read and to keep learning, in our indifference to the economic forces that dictates who bears the burdens and who benefits.
Reading that last part of Huck’s reflection reminded me of “The Joy of the Gospel” that a number of us studied during Lent. Pope Francis spoke of some of those living deaths.
…today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?
The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols.
No to a financial system which rules rather than serves…
Until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples is reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence…If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death…Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve.
The resurrection reminds us that death does not have the final word. As an Easter people we stay alert to “living death” and work to bring joy instead.