He is Risen (whether we like it or not) by Rev. Jerry Pokorsky
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
Jesus said: "My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father's hand. The Father and I are one."
Whether we like it or not, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Perhaps it is odd or objectionable to suggest, in this most holy of seasons, that we may not “like” that Jesus is risen. After all, in the sacred liturgy we rejoice in the grace of the risen Christ. With St. Augustine we joyfully proclaim, “We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song.”
But it seems clear that many people do not like the idea and may even fear the fact. Years ago it was fashionable in some theological circles for professional religious (including some Catholics) to write that if “archaeologists would discover the bones” of Jesus, it really would “not affect their faith in Christ.” Apart from the absurdity of such a “discovery” (how would the remains be identified, a DNA match with Mary?”, the statement reveals a failed faith in the divinity of Christ. But St. Paul insists: “Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Cor 15:12-14)
Does a scholarly denial of the resurrection and His divinity suggest a secret fear? If Christ is risen then everything in this life is changed. Everything He said must be taken seriously and put into practice. The teachings of Christ, such as the forgiveness of enemies, the outlawing of divorce, and the requirement to take up one’s cross and follow Him, take on a new urgency. All the teachings of Christ are validated by the fact of the resurrection.
Whether we like it or not, Jesus Christ is God. In this week’s Gospel Christ claims, “The Father and I are one.” It is a claim that outraged pious ears when Christ made it. The Jews took Him seriously, as He intended to be taken. They were outraged by the assertion and had Him crucified. But that was not the end of the story. We revisit the scene in the light of the resurrection to reconsider the profound meaning. Christ is God, and if Christ is God, what He reveals to us throughout His ministry on earth are imperatives of life.
A “scholarly” and “complicated faith” that deals away the bodily resurrection of Christ and His claim to be divine is a problem not only for intellectuals. Even ordinary priests and church-going folks may share a secret fear that Christ and His words need to be taken seriously because He is true God and true Man. It may be chilling, for example, to realize that we will be accountable for every utterance we make in this life: “I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Mt 12:36-37)
In view of the sins of the members of the Church, it may be disturbing to some that Christ and His Church are one. Whether we like it or not, Jesus Christ built His Church on the rock of Peter: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16: 18-19) The assertion is a splendid and refreshing reminder of the presence of Christ through the ministry of Peter and the Catholic Church in spite of the faults and sins of the members.
The question remains. Why is it possible for us not to like the resurrection, the unity of Christ with the Father and the unity of the Church with Christ? Perhaps the answer lies in a quip by Groucho Marx: “I won’t belong to an organization that would have me as a member.”
Peter was not as clever as Grouch Marx, but his response to the might deeds of Christ was more touching. After witnessing the power of Christ in the miraculous catch of fish, Peter falls to his knees and begs, ”Depart from me for I am a sinful man.” Christ knew he was a sinful man, and his sins played out in the Gospels for all to see. Nevertheless, Jesus affirms and commissions Peter: “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.” (Lk 5:10)
Christ did not forsake Peter in his fear, nor will He forsake us who believe and struggle in union with Him to live and love as He taught. Christ is risen. Christ is one with the Father. In this, there is a lot to like.
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