In my homily today I spoke about a headstone in the Welsh village of Rhayader where I served on and off from 2005-2012. It was of a young woman who had died in her early 20s back in the early 1900s. One the headstone was written also THY WILL BE DONE. I spoke about the marvelous Christian faith which inspired such a statement. It could only be based on a total conviction of God’s goodness and power. The proof of God’s goodness was that Jesus died for our sins. The proof of his power is that Jesus was raised from the dead.
This is the reflection I put in the parish newsletter.
Today we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead, the day when the history of the world changed forever. Its fundamental message is summed up by Jesus’ words at the tomb of Lazarus: ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me even though he die yet shall he live and he who lives and believes in me will never die.’ (John 11:25-26). Here is the Bible Alive commentary.
Our faith is rooted in real and actual events that occurred in history. Jesus, God made man, was born as a baby in the town of Bethlehem, he ministered in Galilee and Jerusalem, he died on a cross at Calvary and rose again on the third day. All of these events are historically verified by reliable witnesses: the birth and the ministry of Jesus by the historians Josephus and Pliny the Younger, and the resurrection by the disciples. In about AD 56 Paul wrote, ‘I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve’ (1 Cor. 15:3-5). Paul is referring to what we can call the living tradition of the resurrection and we are inheritors of this living tradition today.
However, the primary evidence for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is a sign and a confusing one at that: the sign of the empty tomb. None of the Evangelists witnessed the actual event: they described only its aftermath, if you like. Why is this? Of course, like many things in relation to faith, in order to understand we need first to believe: faith comes before understanding. In accepting and believing that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead, we then enter into its mystery.
What happened then when Jesus rose from the dead? Pope Benedict explains that when Jesus rose from the dead, an ‘evolutionary leap’ occurred and a new kind of life broke forth from the tomb. This new life is outside of the boundaries that we know and understand. Although it occurred within history, Jesus’ resurrection is beyond history and it is beyond mere flesh and blood to grasp. In order to take hold of it we need the gift or grace of revelation.
The resurrected Jesus revealed a new human being, set free from the corruption of sin and death. The disciples experienced the Lord as a risen and real person and laid down their lives for this faith. Perhaps the truth of Jesus’ resurrection can only truly be grasped with the eyes of faith. Today we open wide our eyes of faith and let the light of the resurrection radiate and illuminate our lives.
Hallelujah, Jesus Christ is risen today!
One way I visualize the atmosphere at the empty tomb on the first Easter Sunday morning is through the traditional Irish air PORT NA bPUCAI. It can be heard at this link: