Resurrection’s truth is all around us

By 
  • April 5, 2013

A colleague drove me home, a long trip across the city. I volunteered directions. He, absorbed in the dulcet tones and colourful maps offered by his GPS (Global Positioning System), didn’t listen. The computer knew better than I did where I lived and how to get there. “Her” regularly interjected directions were the influential force of that journey.

I’ve noticed some of us have our own built-in GPS, right inside our heads. In its sweet voice, it guides us to where it wants us to go: “Turn right, 50 metres... you have failed... buy this, don’t eat that... you are a failure... go and get a better job... you are bound to fail...” The little refrain is so regular and repeated, so familiar and comforting, we mostly don’t know it’s there, inter-mixed with other sounds of our lives. I like to call it the “failure- GPS.”

We follow it everywhere. So it leads us to: depression; anxiety; self-loathing; contempt of others; anger and rage; addiction; many painful, difficult places. Such places are crowded with our fellow humans, and yet when we’re there, we’re alone. How did we get there? The failure-GPS was somehow installed in our inner worlds without our even realizing it. That unawareness gives it the greatest power of all.

The “beauty” of the failure-GPS is its mixture of lies with truth — the strongest kind of lie. Sometimes we do fail. We may have failed at work, unleashing harmful consequences on ourselves or others. Or at home, through neglect or selfishness or downright sinfulness, causing suffering to our spouse, our children, our circle of friends. Maybe we slipped in our sobriety, broke a promise or a heart.

How can we bear our sinfulness? The failure-GPS makes the most of it by sticking to vagueness — “you always fail” — or making it a personal identity — “you’re a failure.” No wonder shame and self-loathing are such commonly worn clothing.

We tend to keep our failure- GPS to ourselves, and don’t usually introduce ourselves to others as failures. If I were promoting a movement or an organization, I’m not sure I’d start by telling people that the movement’s leaders had failed. Why, then, does the New Testament record so clearly the disciples’ failure to be true to Jesus during His arrest, torture and execution? Why does every Gospel describe Simon Peter’s lying betrayal of the one he knew was the Christ?

To others, it may have seemed Jesus was the failure, whose word wasn’t accepted, and whose God didn’t rescue Him from the cross. But wasn’t Peter’s failure- GPS going crazy, telling him he’d failed, failed, failed? He knew it, his friends knew it, and — most terrible — Jesus knew it.

How did he bear such unbearable anguish?

Jesus went down into the tomb and descended into hell. Into what depths did Peter descend, in the night-time of the crucifixion?

Peter’s emergence from his dark night of failure is a witness of the Resurrection. We aren’t told the details of his resurrection from shame and failure, any more than we’re told the details of Jesus’ resurrection from death. That part of the story is hidden. Somehow, Peter emerges in the Easter light, as in love with Christ as he ever was, but with a new eagerness and a new mission. He’s always been a fisherman; Jesus called him to fish in a new way. In the final Gospel glimpse of Peter (John 21), he is again fishing, the nets empty. As dawn breaks and Jesus arrives, the fishing-mission flourishes.

When the risen Jesus meets Peter, He doesn’t sound like the failure-GPS at all. He speaks no words of reproach or punishment; He doesn’t accuse Peter of failure.

Instead, He brings an urgent question: “Do you love me?” Three times He invites Peter to speak his love. What an antidote for the failure-GPS, which so loves to repeat accusations and insults. When we hear “you’ve failed,” “you’re a failure,” what if we were to shoot back another refrain: “You know I love you, Lord?”

Jesus brings a new way for Peter to become like Christ: “Feed my lambs.” Along with his missionary work, Peter’s given the pastoral duty of caring for others, like the Good Shepherd. How could a person who so intimately knows failure succeed in this? Perhaps this person is best suited to care for others. Perhaps it gives him compassion and mercy — having received them himself, and tasted their sweetness. Perhaps it gives him humility and a desire to assist others rather than staying wrapped up in self-protection as at Calvary.

How can we know the truth of Christ’s resurrection in the flesh? When we experience humility rather than self-protection, compassion rather than judgment, love and service rather than the failure-refrain — we’ve touched the Resurrection. It breaks upon us joyfully like the dawn, abundantly like the overflowing nets. It’s real as breakfast, simple as words of love, close as the touch of a hand. It’s in our “ordinary” lives. It’s everywhere.

(Marrocco can be reached at marrocco7@sympatico.ca.)

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