Friday, 4 April 2014


I count the number of ‘ifs’ in the following words of St Paul and weigh their significance.
“If the dead are not raised, neither is Christ, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is pointless and you have not, after all, been released from your sins. If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are of all people the most pitiable.” (1 Cor. 15:16)
God alone knows how many funerals I have attended, how many times I have stood beside a grave surrounded by mourners. So many words of consolation, words of Christian hope, prayers and hymns based on the faith that the resurrection is a fact. This faith is grounded in the belief that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead.
My priesthood, indeed, my Christianity, is justified by the conviction that my hope in Christ is not for this life only. I believe in Christ, attempt to follow Him, and bear witness to Him, not only because of His inspiring life and teaching. My Christ is the one who was crucified and rose from the dead on the third day. His empty tomb is not the symbol of the emptiness of my Christianity. It is the symbol of its vitality.
The corpse of Jesus was not removed by thieves, nor by well-meaning admirers intent on giving Him a decent burial. The women disciples, early on Easter morning, expected to find a closed tomb and within it, the body of Jesus. Whatever hope they had placed in Jesus had died on Calvary. Surely, as they came to the tomb, they were of all people, the most pitiable.
And here am I, so many centuries after these lamentable events, preaching the resurrection of Jesus, the resurrection of us all to people who say their ‘Amen’ to my words.
This is something extraordinary. We believe with unshakable faith that the dead do rise, precisely in the power of the resurrection of Jesus. Where is the evidence for such faith? What gives to it such absolute certainty?
Why do I and so many others believe in the resurrection of Jesus and stake our lives on this, some even being prepared to die for this?
My celebration of Easter demands answers. This amazing faith is an amazing gift of grace from God. It is parallel to that act of faith by St Peter – “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” to which Jesus replied, “You are a blessed man! Because it was no human agency  that revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.” (Matt 16:16)
No human agency has brought about my faith in the resurrection of Jesus, nor has the report of the empty tomb, nor the accounts of the appearances of Jesus after the crucifixion, nor the preaching and teaching from the time of the apostles to the present day. It is God Himself who has produced in my mind and heart, and yours, the conviction of faith.
I reach God at Easter and throughout my life as I dismiss the tantalizing speculations of St Paul’s momentous ‘ifs’.
Because I believe with unwavering faith and enthusiasm I count myself the most blessed of people. My faith in the risen Jesus is not fanciful. It is not pathetic. It is terrific!

Peter Clarke O.P

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