Saturday, April 7, 2012
He is Risen, Alleluia! Some Thoughts about Easter and the Church and the Role of women.
A Blessed Easter to all! Indeed what is it that we are celebrating? Basically we are celebrating the foundation of our faith. As St. Paul tells us "If he is not risen our faith is in vain." (see 1 Cor, 15, 13-15). Not only are we celebrating that He rose from the dead, but more importantly that He is risen and lives even now.
It is often said that Christianity is based on the Bible. Not entirely so. The Bible, at least the New Testament, is based on the fact that the Risen Christ appeared to people and that they were believed. That fact alone inspired Paul and the other New Testament authors to tell the story in writing.
And whose testimony are we to believe? Surprisingly it is to Mary Magdalene and some other women that Christ first appears. He then commissions them to tell the apostles who at first are skeptical. Later He appears to the Apostles, to two distraught followers on the road to Emmaus and to St. Paul who did not know him during His earthly life.
No one saw Jesus rise. They saw an empty tomb and they saw Him as the Risen One. (See paintings to the left) Two thousand years of Christianity are based on believing the word of these few people. And so we should we find them believable? For one thing I don't think that anyone could have made this up. Jesus was not resuscitated. Doctors do that on a pretty regular basis. He was brought to life by God in a new way, with a body but a body that was glorified, a body in which His wounds are visible to the doubting Thomas and who eats a meal with them, but who also passes through walls. More important however than this line of reasoning is the fact that He lives through us and when we allow Him to do so our faith is believable to others. The transformation of the lives of the early followers is what made faith in the Risen One believable. That is why the Church is hurt so much when there are scandals, when even many in leadership in the Church do not reflect the life of the Risen One who lives not only with God in heaven, but in and through us who believe.
Also, it is the Risen Body of Christ that nourishes us in the Eucharist. I think that many who do not believe in the real presence think that we Catholics believe we are eating of the earthly flesh of Jesus. We do believe that in the Eucharist He comes to us body and soul, humanity and divinity, but it is His risen body that we receive.
It is because we believe today the message that those women passed on to the apostles that we are the Church. Unfortunately I think that most folks think of the Church as a human organization that promotes belief in Christ and a certain code of conduct. I could never believe in such a Church. It is only because I believe that Christ is in the world through the Church, through all of us who believe, that I remain. That is also why we must do a better job of making believable today the truth that those women passed on to the apostles. And obviously we should never downplay the role of women in God's great plan.