Fr. Christopher Dillon OSB
Against the backdrop of the war in Eastern Europe, it seems almost obscene to shout, “Alleluia”, as Christians of the Western tradition are doing today. But the fact that we are doing so is itself an indication of the overwhelming importance of the day. After the solemn liturgical celebration of these past three days, during which we have marked, scene by scene, the drama of our being bought back from destruction at the price of God’s blood, if we can say that of the blood of Jesus Christ, we cannot withhold our rejoicing at the achievement of Jesus’ resurrection. We are celebrating nothing less than the defeat of death. From the moment of Jesus’ “return to the Father”, by means of his death, the phenomenon of death for all humankind has been changed irrevocably. Thenceforth, death is no more than the point of graduation from this temporal human manner of being to the fulness of life in God, however that is to be understood. This is the heart of the Good News of Christianity, the goal of the Incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth.
In our world of alternative facts, fake news and disinformation, you may well ask what it means to make this assertion of the resurrection of Jesus from death. It is a critical question and one that needs both to be asked and to be answered. Is the testimony of the self-styled “eye-witnesses” which we heard in the first reading sufficiently compelling? “We have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead – and he has ordered us to proclaim this.” But what does “resurrection” mean? Read for yourselves the various accounts of the resurrected appearances of Jesus, in the different Gospels. Jesus’ rising was clearly not a raising from the death, as Lazarus had been raised, only to die again, at some later date. This was/is a physical rising from death, which allowed for eating and drinking; but also for appearing and disappearing, for a manner of being which exceeds our normal experience and description.
This testimony, we are told, was supported by the working of miracles and manifest heroism of those witnesses in martyrdom, later on. All of us here have been brought up to believe this testimony and to live accordingly, in the community of believers which we call the church. But, do we believe it? And if we do, how does our believing affect the way we live our lives, if at all?
These are questions which deserve responsible enquiry by every one of us. Indeed, the credibility and the future of the church in the West depends on the quality of our engagement with them.
The synodal process on which we are struggling to embark offers an obvious opportunity to address them and the many other matters which follow from them. We need to inform ourselves of the real issues in the community of believers, men and women – more women than men, don’t forget – and to hold our leaders in the church to account both in what they teach and in how they live.
All this makes us an Easter people, involving engagement and hard work, but always in the certain knowledge that the Spirit of God which Jesus breathed into the world is with and within us. We have good news to share and good news to live by: Christ is risen, Alleluia!