The Risen Christ calling the Apostles at the Sea of Galilee
The entrance to Christ’s tomb
The Upper Room, where Jesus came before and after the Resurrection
The stone which commemorates Christ’s anointing.
To their minds the story was madness and they could not believe it.
There is a pessimism that persists in our spiritual thinking, despite our claims that we prefer to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. The darker side of life is always more convincing and interesting than the brighter. Bad news makes headlines; good news rarely does.
The Good News of the Resurrection is no exception. Many Christians can tell the story of our Lords suffering and death in great detail, from the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem to the Last Words from the Cross. But few know the gospel story of the Risen Life.
We believe the good news, of course, as it is the very basis of our faith. Logically, we know that if Christ had not risen from the dead, we would be fools to be Christians.
For several reasons, though, we find it difficult to fully grasp the truth of the Resurrection, either spiritually or emotionally.
Part of the problem is that we have no traditions and customs surrounding the Feast to help us savor it, as we do for Christmas, for instance. There is nothing for Easter to compare with the carols or the Creche to kneel before to catch the wonder of Bethlehem.
Another obstacle to our feeling the reality of the Resurrection is that, as living human beings, we have no experience of sheer glory or of life after death. Having felt human joy and suffering, we can identify with the early life and the Passion of our Lord. But His glorious life has no parallel in our own existence.
It is comforting to know that we are not alone in our difficulty. There are countless examples in the gospel account of the Resurrection of the reluctance of the Apostles to believe that our Lord had really risen.
When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found it empty, she ran to tell Peter and John. They observed the vacant spot and folded garments, and came back wondering what this might mean. After rejoining the disciples in the Upper Room, they barred the doors in fear.
When the holy women came and told of seeing an angel of the Lord at the tomb, who had told them that Christ was risen, they still did not believe. To their minds the story was madness and they could not believe it.
They could believe in death, in loss, in shattered dreams; they could not believe in Life Renewed.
The one thing they had all forgotten is what we should always remember: that our Lord never once spoke of His Passion without immediately foretelling the Resurrection. Destroy this temple, Christ had said, referring to His body, and in three days I will build it up again.
On another occasion He told them: The time has come when the Son of Man will be mocked and scourged and crucified; but on the third day He will rise again.
As late as the Last Supper Jesus told them: I am going away, but I am coming back and then I will take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.
It was so clear, so constantly repeated; but they all forgot. Even when He appeared in their midst in the Upper Room, they thought it must be a ghost. He held out His hands so that they could see the wounds, invited them to grasp His hands and see that He was flesh and blood and not a spirit. The only thing that finally convinced them was when He asked if they had anything to eat. The simple, human act of eating was what registered with them; ghosts cant eat.
We cant fault just Thomas for doubting; he wasnt with the others he didnt see. In fact, we should be indebted to him for the words his doubt brought from our Blessed Lord: Thomas, because you have seen, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. It isnt seeing thats believing; its just the opposite. We have not seen, so we can believe. There is a risk to faith. It takes courage to hope. Easter is our grounds for both.
There was one who never doubted. We know that she kept all His words, pondering over them in her heart. That is a true definition of hope relying on the promises of Christ, remembering them. It was this, surely, which gave Our Lady the strength to stand strong at the foot of the Cross. It is also the reason why we call her, our Life, our Sweetness and our Hope.
May our Risen Lord and our Mother of Fair Hope give us the courage to look always beyond the darkness of present troubles to the bright promise of eternal Life that his Resurrection is for us.
Charles F.X. Dolan, S.J., Vice President of St. Peter’s Prep, Jersey City, has had an extensive apostolate in radio and TV on the “Sacred Heart Program” and the “Catholic Hour.”