As on Good Friday, I am deeply thankful and influenced by the work of Richard Rhor and the conversation he invites us into around our False and True Self in his book, “Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self.”
If Good Friday, and anytime for that matter, when we allow our False Self and those elements of our lives that need to die, to in fact die, what then is our True Self? Our True Self, as Rhor describes, is the self that feels and is immortal. This is the self that is our absolute identity, who we are in God and who God is in us. The True Self is the branch connected to the vine, to use a biblical reference. Notice, that the True Self is not the trunk of the vine, but a branch in that we are not God and God is not us. We are, however connected to God because of our True Self.
For our True Self to be fully realized it is important to have gone through the events of this past week to die with Christ so that today, we celebrate and hold before the world our True Self where we find perfect union in God.
Our Easter Gospel has our beloved Mary arrive at the tomb. Christ, the same Christ who was crucified appears to her first, and later the other disciples. Mary becomes for us our “stand in” for all who long for resurrection. She demonstrates for us her and our need for love and forgiveness. Because of this she waits at the tomb a moment longer than the others. She looks again in the tomb and now notices the two angels she missed the first time. Notice that the others do not notice the angels. It is on this second look that she begins to see how things really are. This is the time when she notices what has always been there in plain sight. So many times this is rings true for us as well. Often it is the second or sometimes third look at things to fully appreciate and see and realize more fully the whole story. Jesus clearly is no longer in the tomb. But who is there are angles; those who point us in the right direction. Mary turns to find Jesus standing there next to her in the garden. She doesn’t recognize him at first. It is only after she is called by name that recognition returns and she sees Jesus before her.
Mary was the one who was at the foot of the cross and she is the first to arrive at the tomb and the first to witness the resurrected Lord. The resurrected Lord comes to her, the same, yet different. She doesn’t recognize him at first; he is himself transformed and in union with God, with his True Self fully revealed for all to see.
Did you catch it? The resurrected Jesus comes to Mary transformed! Here lies our hope and the promise of the Gospels. We too because of Mary and God’s radical and unconditional love are transformed by God. This is not a maybe, or a we’ll see, or if the time is right. No, this is the manifestation of a promise from God, through Jesus, that we will be in union with God.
Notice, that we will not be the same as God. Our True Self is about bringing to light our best selves and the best ‘us’ we can be in the same way that Jesus becomes the best he can be in God. An understanding of transformation is important here. Transformation in this context means that Jesus is still himself, yet there is something different about him. As we read later when Jesus appears to the disciples and in particular to Thomas, his wounds are still there. They are the same wounds, not necessarily healed, but transformed. Belief and recognition follows resurrection. Here too lies a promise for us. We too will be transformed to be our best selves in union with God. The promise of Easter is God’s desire for us to be our best selves where our wounds are transformed and we enter into a fuller and deeper life with God.
Good dying therefore is allowing our False Self to fall away, recognizing that it is not enough, so that we can then be transformed into something bigger and better. Through the process of dying and rising - in all ways big and small - we become closer in union with the Divine where we can say with all honesty, “my life is not about me, but I am about life.” I argue that this is at the heart of the Easter Gospel, that because of Jesus we are about life and life Abundant.