The dignity of the soul – an Easter question (Deuteronomy 3,18-end; Acts 3,1-4,4.)
Our passage recalls Moses’ request, and its refusal, to enter the promised Land. ‘I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon. … But the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more of this matter. Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes: for thou shalt not go over this Jordan.’
There is an important symbolic meaning of these lines. Do we belong to a past, transitory world, brought down by ‘sin’ − or do we belong to the world of the Resurrection? The world of Easter is in stark contrast with the world of inertia, idleness and dead-ends.
Peter’s speech in the Temple speaks on behalf of this liberating Easter. He asks for the decision of faith. ‘The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead.’
Indeed, our world is entrapped in a Beckettian ‘Endgame’. We are caught up in the past which manifest itself in a weightless, formless present. There is no exit. The past cannot be accessed, the present cannot be transformed, and the future cannot be shaped.
Unless a miracle pushes us to the tipping point of Easter faith − that leads to a new and irreversible development. Exactly this is what happens to part of his audience. ‘And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day…. Howbeit man of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.’
The big question is, do people today have a sense of the dignity of their soul? Or there is a collective fainting into oblivion when the responsibility for one’s immortal soul is forgotten? As Julia Kristeva in her New Maladies of the Soul puts it, ‘do people still have a soul’? Perhaps, this lack is the situation of the ‘man lame from his mother’s womb’ whose request for something less then the dignity of the soul triggered out Peter’s liberating speech.
Bearing in mind the above tipping point, indeed, who still has a soul?