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“Resurrexit Sic Ut Dixit!” (He has Risen as He said!). For nothing is impossible for God!
It is important, perhaps even crucial nowadays, to reflect on one of the most most basic and fundamental truths in our faith. Our Lord Jesus Christ did indeed rise from the dead in His Resurrection for our salvation!
Christ’s rising from the dead wondrously reaffirmed for His astonished disciples His conquest over death as foretold in Scripture. Remember as well that this victory can be ours when we pass from this life in a state of Sanctifying Grace to receive glorified bodies at the “Resurrection of the Dead and the Life of the World to Come”, as we say in the Nicene Creed, with supernatural abilities such as those Jesus displayed on that first Easter Sunday.
As St. Ambrose once wrote “By convincing us of his own Resurrection, he [Christ] likewise assures us of the physical nature of our own Resurrection on the Last Day.” Christ also wondrously reaffirmed His Divinity in His Resurrection, that He was not just a “prophet mighty in deed” (Luke 24:19) as the disciples on the Road to Emmaus referred to Him.
Gospel readings reflect on the surprise and joy that the disciples must have felt seeing our Lord very much alive and in the flesh, walking with them, talking, eating and even making them breakfast!
There was no way he could be mistaken for a ghost, as the startled disciples first thought when they saw him (Luke 24:37). He had flesh and bones and could even eat a piece of fish!
Yet Jesus had told them several times during His earthly ministry, that after his execution He would rise from the dead (see for example Matt 16:23; Matt 17:9, and Luke 18:32-33).
Granted, that whole concept of His rising from the dead seemed incomprehensible to his apostles and disciples when He’d mentioned it then. Still, the Apostle Thomas needed to put his hands into our Lord's wounds in his side to believe it (John 20:24-28).
I’ve always felt we owe a strange debt to this original doubting Thomas. It wasn’t enough for him to hear the news from his joyfully amazed colleagues that their master was indeed alive with a quite physical presence indeed, only 2 days after His brutal Crucifixion, according to John’s gospel.
Thomas wanted more concrete evidence. And a week after our Lord’s first appearance he got it! Jesus said to him, in effect, see for yourself and had Thomas place his hands in two of his quite visible five wounds he’d received in His crucifixion. (Talk about being bloodied but unbowed!)
Thomas was indeed convinced at that moment, and Jesus said “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29) Sadly, however we need more of these blessed! There are many doubting Thomases among us these days!
While one might think of Thomas as acting like a pompous jerk in this instance beforehand I’ve often thought he did us all a favor in further reaffirming as fact Jesus’ Resurrection in body, not just as some phantasm.
Every now and then we read of some scholar on the Internet or on a cable news program excitedly describing some far-fetched new "discovery" about Jesus.
A few years back, there was this TV special about a supposedly newly-discovered tomb where Jesus was buried, perhaps with his "wife"(!?) Mary Magdalene. St. Mary Magdalene was no doubt a wonderful person, but she was not our Lord's wife, in any case!
And a while back, there was a well-known author named John Dominic Crossen who speculated that the reason that there were no remains of our Lord was that he had been eaten by dogs! (Talk about something crazy!)
Even within our faith there are those who doubt the authenticity of this great miracle. A subtle form of attack on the fact of Christ's Resurrection, one that has found favor even in some theology departments, sadly, is to say that this event was somehow symbolic, that Jesus’ Resurrection just took place in the hearts and minds of the disciples! Nope. Not true, not in the least!
Fortunately, besides St. Thomas' experience, Our Lord gave us, as St. Luke said, “many proofs” (Acts 1:3) that he was alive. After all, Christ didn't just show up once to one disciple, or perhaps just to His Blessed Mother, for maybe just a few brief moments. Far from it!
St. Augustine lists the following 10 “distinct appearances of the Lord to different persons after His resurrection” in his treatise De consensu evangelistarum (On the Harmony of the Evangelists):
1) "To the women near the sepulcher" (John 20:14)
2) "To the same women as they were on the way returning from the sepulcher" (Matt 28:9)
3) "To Peter" (Luke 24:35)
4) "To the two who were going to the place in the country" [The Disciples on the Road to Emmaus)] (Luke 24:15)
5) "To the larger number in Jerusalem, when Thomas was not present" (John 20:19-24)
6) "On the occasion when Thomas saw Him" (John 20:26)
7) "By the sea of Tiberias" (John 21:1)
8) "On the mountain of Galilee, of which Matthew speaks" (Matt 28:16-17)
9) "At the time to which Mark refers in the words, 'Lastly as they sat at table,' thereby intimating that now they [the apostles] were no more to eat with Him upon the earth" (Mark 16:14)
10) "On the same day, not now indeed upon the earth, but lifted up in the cloud, as he ascended into heaven" (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:50-51)
Clearly, we’re not talking about one stray hallucination or some case of mistaken identity here!
Note also that Sts. Peter (Acts 10:41), John (John 20:25), Luke (Acts 1:3, as mentioned earlier) and Paul (1 Cor 15:4-5) all refer to other appearances of our Lord before His Ascension into heaven over a 40 day period!
Noted Catholic author and professor Peter Kreeft has written a valuable article here taken from his Handbook of Christian Apologetics detailing each of the theories that have emerged about what really might have happened to Jesus right after his death at Calvary. (It is also available as a video on You Tube here.)
He skillfully demolishes these four: 1) Jesus didn't die but rather swooned; 2) Jesus' Resurrection was a conspiracy theory fabricated by the disciples; 3) His Resurrection was all an hallucination; and finally 4) It was all just a myth. The gist of Kreeft's refutation of all these theories is that there is simply too much evidence to the contrary! Here are some of Professor Kreeft's arguments:
1) Refuting the Swoon Theory: it collapses on itself given the certainty of Jesus’ death before being taken down from the Cross. Kreeft points out that St. John the Evangelist saw blood and water coming from Jesus’ pierced heart, signifying his death from asphyxiation (John 19:34).
2) On the Conspiracy Theory: Remember that, particularly in those first few decades after Our Lord’s death and Resurrection, Christians were not exactly welcomed with open arms! They faced persecution and even death from the Romans, for example, as when the Emperor Nero sought to make them the scapegoat for the great fire that engulfed Rome in 64 AD. However, none of them ever "broke" under torture with a confession that the Resurrection was a fabricated conspiracy tale. If it were, why become a Christian? To be persecuted for a fable?
Thus, as Kreeft says quite well, they never let the cat out of the bag because there was no cat in the bag in the first place! He points out the apostles and disciples weren't slick or cunning types, but rather people who preached and lived a resurrected Christ!
Kreeft also notes that it would have been logistically impossible for the disciples to have stolen Jesus' body from a well guarded, well-sealed tomb. In addition, if Jesus were indeed still there, the Jews who were vociferously opposed to any notion of our Lord being the Messiah, such as the high priests who clamored for His Crucifixion, could have easily produced His body. That never happened because there was no corpse to produce!
3) On the Hallucination Theory: As mentioned above in reference to St. Augustine, there were too many witnesses on too many separate occasions to Christ's presence among them, including 500 people at one time(!) (1 Cor 15:6) for Him to be a hallucination. And when do hallucinations eat food you give them (Luke 24:42) or cook breakfast for you (John 21:9)?
4) On the Myth Theory: The Gospel stories in general are not written like fairy tales. St. Peter put this so well in describing his witnessing, along with the Apostles James and John, Christ's Transfiguration (where our Lord turned dazzling white and spoke to Moses and Elijah).
Our first Pope writes that, as he put it "we did not follow cleverly devised myths" (2 Peter 1:16). Also it was not not just the four Evangelists, but their contemporaries who attested to Jesus' miracles, including, of course, His Resurrection.
I would like to quote here some touching words from St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians "if Christ has not risen vain then is our preaching, vain too is your faith" (1 Cor 15:17). Or as my godmother once put it: “Without the Resurrection we all look like a bunch of schmucks!”
This brings us to a key point about Jesus' Resurrection I mentioned earlier. Our God of great miracles can and will restore our bodies at His Second Coming, regardless of their condition. For the faithful who passed away in a state of Sanctifying grace with no mortal sins these bodies will be glorious indeed!
But let me give the bad news before we get to more good news: We should never assume our salvation after all. Those souls who have died in a state that lands them in hell will stay damned forever with bodies joining their souls in a state of unimaginable pain and suffering in wretched darkness.
This is a good warning for us to strive to stay in as much of that state of grace as possible and not deliberately commit mortal sins so that then we can merit the good news instead! And salvation brings much good news indeed, both for your soul after death and then for your body as well upon our Lord’s Second Coming one day!
I’m using the acronym BIAS to remember what God has in store then for those who love Him: (This bias is actually a good one!) Aches and pains? Gone! Problems with weight or disease? Gone!
Your Glorified body reunited to your soul will have four quite wondrous qualities : These are Brilliance (in that it will shine like the sun); Impassibility (in that you will have no pain or suffering whatsoever!) Agility (Imagine being able to move at the speed of thought!
No need for cars, trains, planes, or whatever else to go anywhere!) and finally Subtlety (as in being able to move through what to us are enclosures such as walls and locked doors, for examples.)
Jesus certainly gave us all a taste of the powers of a resurrected body in subtlety (meeting the disciples even though they were behind closed doors) (John 20:19) and perhaps Agility as well, when He suddenly vanished after breaking bread with the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:31).
All this sounds great doesn’t it? It certainly gives one hope in the long run. As St. Paul put it so well in his letter to the Philippians “We await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself" (Phil 3:19-20).
If all this seems far fetched, remember again as always that with God all things are possible (Matt 19:26)! Think of some of His great Gospel miracles: Re-attaching someone’s ear with a touch? Healing a servant with just a thought? Thinking water into wine? Calming the wind and the waves with a quick sharp rebuke? All of this is no problem for God! That's why He’s God and we’re not! Yet one thing he can’t do is to change stony hearts into loving ones without our consent!
So, in conclusion, try to persevere in the midst of suffering and anxieties as best you can these days and offer up your troubles to Jesus to help yourself and fellow sinners achieve salvation as well. And, as always keep your eyes on the prize of Heaven so that, as St. John (John 20:31) said “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”