Is Christ's triumph over death a concrete and literal truth for you? Because that's what our faith is all about.
At a little more than eight weeks into his gestation, we had the privilege of hearing the healthy batter of my second son’s heart, an experience that is a miracle of modern medicine.
Beating at such a beautifully rhythmic rate, his brand new heart spoke to us of the great mystery of his life. Who was he? Who would he be? What kind of playmate would he be for his 2-year-old brother?
We were filled with wonder at his uniqueness. Simple as his tiny body was, we already knew he was irreplaceable. No child could bring to this world what he had to offer.
Knowing that this tiny heart was beating away in its hidden cavern became our secret delight, a little joy that would arbitrarily pop into our minds, filling us with excited expectation, and an immeasurable sense of gratitude.
Soon after that day of delighting in the melody of his little heart, our child died. His passing was unknown to any of us, occurring in the secret space close to his mother’s heart.
He’d gone on to experience what all hearts are made for, Eternal Beatitude.
To encounter death so closely, so personally, has a way of putting your faith in the Resurrection to test. But then, St Paul made it so clear that “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile” (1 Corinthians 15: 17).
All of a sudden, the mystery of the Resurrection didn’t seem like some far-off cosmic event. Suddenly it was personal, more personal than it had ever seemed before.
Now, in a new way, I saw what the Resurrection means to us who live in this valley of tears. It means that no matter what the tragedy, no matter how many tears we shed, that’s not the end of our story.
This faith in the concrete, literal truth of the Resurrection, is at the heart of what our faith is about. The spiritual life makes a constant call to voluntarily die to ourselves. But our faith is not measured by the extent of our self-denial. It’s measured by the force that drives those acts of penance. Death to self would make no sense at all if it were not founded on the rock-solid belief that God brings every kind of death to resurrection.
My experience with the death of my second child has helped me understand the core of the Christian life. As St. John Paul II said, “We are an Easter people, and ‘Alleluia’ is our song.” This is not to say that we do not experience loss, suffering, or death, but that it is precisely our faith in the Resurrection and our hope for Easter joy that sustains us during our earthly journey.
It’s the only thing that could keep us going in the face of a loss we were powerless to stop.
St. Paul explains, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15: 20). Christ being raised from the dead is the first fruit in salvation history, and now that He has cut a path, we can follow His lead into death, and through it to the other side.
Not only is the Resurrection of our Savior a cause for us to live a life of faith, but even more, it gives the hope of the resurrection to all those who go after Him.
Although my son, Joseph Lazarus (named in honor of the Resurrection), did not participate in the faith of the Resurrection on this Earth, he has without a doubt come to experience the Risen One. And not only this: his life and death have been a great grace for me.
Baby Joey has helped me refocus my life on the Resurrection and remember anew my hope for Eternal Beatitude.
Some of the first fruits of my son’s new life in Heaven have been the graces for me — of greater faith in his present place and a hope to one day be with the One who has led the way.