I would like to recommend a book titled The Resurrection: Experience Life in the Risen Christ by Fabrice Hadjadj. It was given to me as a gift for Easter. I found it to be surprisingly insightful and unexpectedly joyful! With a great sense of humor, Hadjadj interprets the Gospel passages pertaining to the Resurrection. He brings a fresh perspective as a convert from atheism/nihilism/Buddhism, and a married man with children. This book lifted my mind and my spirit, and made this Easter season most enjoyable for me.
In the first chapter of the book Hadjadj comments on Matthew 28:11-15. This is the Gospel passage in which the guards of Jesus’ tomb are bribed by the chief priests not to tell anyone what really happened on Easter morning. Hadjadj makes the astute observation that, “…the acceptance of the sum of money [in this passage] corresponds quite precisely to the rejection of the Resurrection.” Hadjadj then goes on to develop a thesis that money is a convenient replacement for true religion. He claims that we are tempted to measure everything according to its monetary value, and therefore everything can be reduced to a manmade system of worth. If the infinite value of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead can be replaced by a sum of money, then we should consider what parts of our spiritual life are being replaced by the free market. With brilliant clarity Hadjadj deftly points out that the man of money is, “…deprived of springtime, of the dawn, of this flower at the edge of the road, of this face at his side, and especially of his empty hands that could offer themselves, or finally the joy of having few possessions, which brings out the resource of being and receiving that which is priceless?” How much have we let money steal these simple and beautiful realities from us as sons, brothers, and fathers? Ultimately, Hadjadj is encouraging us to consider that love for money may actually be a stumbling block to belief in the Resurrection of Jesus.
Then Hadjadj makes a logical conclusion based on his first reflections on money. He continues his train of thought and concludes that money is based on a manmade system of value and worth. Therefore, if money is the foundation of a manmade world, then what’s to stop us from building castles in the clouds? Hadjadj explains, “Basically, money and the resurrection are as two systems of possibility: the system of the virtual and the system of the living. . . What I am calling ‘virtual’ here refers instead to ‘virtual reality’, in other words, to the opposite of myth, poetry, and novels: virtuality that tends to substitute itself for reality and to exert its influence over it. Digital technology is in fact the ultimate stage of cash. The digitalization of the world through the internet is the final step in the monetization of the world through money.” Hadjadj is proposing that money is the foundation of a system that acts as a substitute for the reality given to us and created by God, of which the Resurrection of Jesus is the seal of guarantee. Then he concludes that the internet, video games, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, are the ultimate level of false reality based on the manmade not the God-made foundations of money.
I reflected on this point and I can see this pattern developing in my own family, that my parents focused on making more money than their parents (step 1) in order to provide a better life for their children, and then looking at me and my brother’s generation, we became consumed with video games and internet distractions (step 2). First, the focus and emphasis on finances, and second, the digital hijacking of reality. Of course, technology in itself is neutral, and can be used for good ends. However, Hadjadj is not critiquing technology in itself, he is critiquing us men who tend to worship money and the latest technology as our little idols.
Let’s take St. Paul’s advice to the Colossians and, “Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth” (3:2). Hopefully Hadjadj’s commentary on this Gospel passage can teach us how to put the Resurrection at the center of our lives in order to receive and engage reality as God created it to be.