Hope for the Dead
What is the connection between personal freedom and rising from the dead?
When America was in its infancy and struggling to find a culture and frustrated at governance from Great Britain, the word most frequently uttered in speeches and pamphlets and editorials was not "safety" or "taxes" or "peace"; it was "freedom." Two acts of Parliament broke the bonds with the mother country irreparably.
The first was the Stamp Act, which was enforced by British soldiers who used general search warrants issued by a secret court in London to rummage through the personal possessions of any colonists they chose, ostensibly looking to see whether they had purchased the government's stamps.
A general search warrant, as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court issues in America today, did not specifically describe the person or place to be searched — which our Constitution now requires. Rather, these warrants were authority for the bearer to search wherever he pleased and seize whatever he wanted — and it remains so today despite what the Constitution says.
The second intolerable act in the Colonial era was the imposition of a tax to pay for the Church of England, which all adult male property-owning colonists were forced to pay, no matter their religious beliefs.
The Stamp Act assaulted the right to be left alone in the home, and the Church of England tax assaulted the freedom to retain one's earnings and to choose to support one's own means of worship. These two laws caused many colonists to realize they needed to secede from Britain and form their own country, in which freedom would be protected by the government, not assaulted by it.
Today the loss of freedom comes in many forms.
Sometimes it is direct and profound, as when Congress acts like a general legislature that can right any wrong, regulate any activity and tax any event; and the courts permit it to do so. Sometimes it is subtler — for example, when the government prints money to pay its bills and, as a result, all the money and assets we already have lose much of their value.
Sometimes the government steals freedom without our knowing it, such as when the National Security Agency reads our email and text messages and listens to our
phone calls without a proper search warrant.
Freedom is the ability of every person to exercise personal free will without a government permission slip. Free will is a characteristic we share in common with God. He created us in His image and likeness. As He is perfectly free, so are we.
When the government takes away our free will, the government steals a gift from God; it violates the natural law; it prevents us from having and utilizing the means to seek the truth. The exercise of free will to seek the truth is a natural right that all humans possess, and the government may only morally interfere with that exercise when one has been convicted of using fraud or force to interfere with the exercise of someone else's natural rights.
We know from events 2,000 years ago, which Christians commemorate and celebrate this week, that freedom is the essential means to discover and unite with the truth. To Christians, the personification, the incarnation and the perfect manifestation of truth is Jesus — who is the Christ, the Son of God and the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
On the first Holy Thursday, Jesus attended a traditional Jewish Passover Seder. Catholics believe that at His last supper, Jesus performed two miracles so that we could stay united to Him. He transformed ordinary bread and wine into His own body, blood, soul and divinity, and He empowered His disciples and their successors to do the same.
On the first Good Friday, the government executed Jesus because it was convinced that by claiming to be the Son of God, He might foment a revolution against it. He did foment a revolution, but it was in the hearts of men and women. The Roman government had not heard of a revolution of the heart, so it condemned Him to death by crucifixion.
Jesus had the freedom to reject this horrific event, but He exercised His free will so that we might know the truth. The truth is that He would rise from the dead.
On Easter, three days after He died, that manifestation was completed when He did rise from the dead. By doing that, He demonstrated to us that while living, we can liberate our souls from the slavery of sin and our free will from the oppression of the government; and after death, we can rise to be with Him.
Easter — which manifests our own immortality — is the linchpin of human existence. With it, life is worth living, no matter its costs or pains. Without it, life is meaningless, no matter its fleeting joys or triumphs. Easter has a meaning that is both incomprehensible and simple. It is incomprehensible that a human being had the freedom to rise from the dead. It is simple because that human being was and is God.
Jesus is the hypostatic union — not half God and half man and not just a godly good man but truly and fully God and, at the same time, truly and fully man. When the Roman government killed the man Jesus, it killed God. When the man Jesus rose from His tomb, God rose from the dead.
What does Easter mean? Easter means that there's hope for the dead. If there's hope for the dead, there's hope for the living. But like the colonists who fought the oppression of the king, we the living can only achieve our hopes if we have freedom. And that requires a government that protects freedom, not one that assaults it.