Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Do you believe in the Resurrection?

The most fundamental question of Christianity is: "Did Jesus rise from the dead?" In fact, it is the THE question that separates Christians from non-Christians. Quite simply, anyone who answers 'yes' is saying that he is a Christian; anyone who says 'no' is saying that he is not. So, what does it mean to say that Jesus rose from the dead? What does it mean to believe in the Resurrection?

If I say that I believe that Jesus rose from the dead, then I believe that he has power over all things, even death. If I stop and think about what it means for a person to rise from the dead, it is mind-blowing! Jesus died a terrible and cruel death. He hung on a cross for at least three hours, and then died of suffocation. The death of Jesus of Nazareth is an indisputable, historical fact; even the most ardent atheist would admit that Jesus shed his flesh and blood on Mount Calvary.

His life had ended. "He breathed his last" (Lk 23:46). This is confirmed by all of the Gospel writers, as well as the reaction of the disciples: "(they) were mourning and in tears" (Mk 16:10). We can only imagine the tremendous sorrow and grief the disciples felt. Was Jesus not the Son of God? Not the Messiah? Was he a false prophet? Was he a liar and a blasphemer?

As they pondered these serious and somber questions for three days in their mourning, they received startling news from Mary Magdelene on the third day. "He has risen from the dead" (Mt 28:7). Those who went to see the empty tomb where Christ was buried were amazed at what they saw, and believed. He is risen!!

To believe in the Resurrection of Jesus is to believe that He is the Anointed One...He is the Christ. No one has risen from the dead before Him, and no one has done it after Him. He is the Resurrection (Jn 11:25). He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn 14:6). Everything he said is true, and he is God's only Son. He offers us his life, and all those who believe in Him and live the Gospel share in his Resurrection (life after death). Do you believe?

"If Christ has not been raised, your faith is pointless and you have not, after all, been released from your sins" (1 Cor 15:16, 17).


At 6:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Fr. Greg!

I've been curious about a couple things that I hoped
you might clear up. One is why Mary didn't look in the
Temple immediately when Jesus was missing. Wouldn't
she have come to God in prayer there before 3 days?

And second, how come John the Baptist was among the
Holy Innocents killed?

Thanks very much.

At 12:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

technical question........note related to topic.....Can a divorced Catholic (non Catholic spouse deserted) still go to reconciliation without annulment? ex spouse very uncooperative and out of touch and the non catholic bailed or left the marriage. Have read that if when man and woman marry, if one is not Catholic and fully understand vows, then the sacrament may not be valid to begin with.....meaning annulment not needed.

At 6:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Annonymous that is something I didn't think of. Why didn't she look in the temple?

At 9:30 AM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

Anon, thanks for your questions. I put our summer seminarian, Dan, to work on getting some Scriptural basis for what you've asked. I've pasted it below. The main points he makes are pretty clear, I think; let me know if they aren't. Btw, I assume you meant, 'why wasn't John the Baptist among the Holy Innocents?'
The general point, if you ask me, is that we see God's Plan at work with both situations. In other words, God willed Mary to spend three days looking for Jesus and for John the Baptist not to be in the area among the Holy Innocents. These events are significant for Christians, among other reasons, because:

1) the three days before the Finding in the Temple points to Christ's Death and Resurrection (as Dan mentions)...what it means to look for Christ and to find Him...what did Mary know about who Jesus was when he was 12, and what did he know about himself then...etc.

2) John the Baptist being spared from the slaughter so that he will fulfill his mission as the herald of Christ...he is spared in much the same way that Moses was spared of Pharaoh's slaughter of male children...obviously, Jesus is spared as well, so the company that JB finds himself in shows that God has a great plan for him, which he was able to live out.

In Christ,
Fr Greg

Some material for the answers:

Luke 2:41-45. This account of the Holy Family's trip to Jerusalem, and their celebration of the Passover there, makes no mention of the Temple. The Temple is first mentioned in this passage when they find Jesus there in verse 46.

Dr. Miller (seminarian Scripture professor) explained to us this year that the Temple was a noisy, crowded place. Pilgrims from the Holy Land and other areas were coming and going. Animals were being sacrificed, and there was constant movement, noise, and blood connected with this. Musicians were making music. Merchants were handling the animals needed for sacrifice; moneychangers were exchanging the special Temple currency. During Passover, all of this would have been even more than normal. He pointed out to us that the Temple was definitely not a place that one would go for quiet prayer!

Likewise, one would not celebrate the Passover in the Temple. Perhaps a visit; perhaps the Passover lamb would have been slaughtered there. But very likely that is not where the Holy Family had been spending their time in Jerusalem. Probably Mary and Joseph went back to the places where they had been to look for Jesus.

At the same time, I would think that Jerusalem at that time was not big enough that searching for a boy would normally have taken three days. This combines with the point that "after three days they found him" very strongly suggests a connection to Jesus' future death and, on the third day, resurrection. Very likely someone's hand is at work setting up this symbolism. We might suppose that this could be the hand of the Evangelist Luke shaping his text, or the hand of God shaping the events.

Matt 2:16. Herod kills "all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under."

Luke 1:39-40. Earlier, Mary travels "to the hill country … to a town of Judah" to go to the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth, parents of John the Baptist.

I don't know if anyone has good information on where exactly in Judah Zechariah might have lived. (It's possible, maybe based on information about his ancestry.) From these two verses, there is no reason to suppose that Zechariah's town would have been in the vicinity of Bethlehem.

At 5:12 PM, Anonymous John said...

I have a question about St. Paul's letter where he says (basically) that men should marry if there's no other way to contain their lust. For homosexuals that isn't an option. I find St. Paul's "prescription" odd since even married men are called to chastity within marriage. What do you think of that passage?

At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks those answers are very helpful.

I struggle with Scripture in the sense of sometimes
reading it literally and other times symbolically, but
it's interesting to hear it combined in the sense of
God writing "symbolically-literally" - i.e. Him
"shaping events for His purpose". Too often I tend to
think the only answers are literal (i.e. it happened
naturally, unless a miracle claim is made & then it
happened supernaturally) or symbolically (the gospel
writer is being a tad creative). But I was mistaken in
thinking *all* miracles that occurred w/r/t JB & Jesus
are recorded in the NT.

So thanks again!

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

2nd anon, thanks for your tech. questions. First, as I'm sure you are aware, the Church does not recognize divorce. If a couple is married validly, then that's a life-long committment. If a marriage isn't valid, though, then they were never married. A declaration of nullity (annulment) states that the marriage never took place. The big question, then, that marriage tribunals look at every time, is what does it take for a marriage to truly occur (a question for another time on here)?

Ok, so let's say that a couple who was married is no longer living together; e.g., one of the spouses deserted the other. "The Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was" (Cathechism of the Catholic Church, # 1650). What that means is that the spouses cannot start a new relationship or enter into union with another because they are still married to each other (if their first marriage was valid).

If one or both of them DOES start a new relationship or enter into union with another, "they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists... Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence" (CCC, 1650). They can't be absolved of their sins of adultery unless they repent and change their situation.

Now, let's say a separated spouse does NOT enter into a new relationship with another. She is invited to receive Holy Communion, provided they are otherwise living in a state of grace. She is remaining faithful to her wedding promises (of fidelity, permanence, etc.), even though her spouse is not. She has the support, prayers, and love of the Church.

Now about marriages that aren't valid. When a marriage is declared to be annulled, it simply means that it never took place. One of the factors that might determine is that one or both of the spouses didn't truly understand what marriage was, what consent was, etc. If a marriage never took place, a tribunal (three judge panel) must declare an annulment for the spouses to be free to marry others.

So, a declaration of nullity is always needed if spouses who have been married before are going to be free to marry. If it is determined that the marriage took place validly, the Church does not recognize civil divorce. Why? Because of the teaching of Christ himself:

"Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery" (Mk 10:11-12).

At 1:49 PM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

let me try this part again...it was a little confusing (sorry):

If a separated spouse DOES start a new relationship or enter into union with another, he "cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists... Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence" (CCC, 1650). He can't be absolved of his sins of adultery unless he repents and changes his situation.

Now, let's say a separated spouse does NOT enter into a new relationship with another. She is invited to receive Holy Communion, provided they are otherwise living in a state of grace. She is remaining faithful to her wedding promises (of fidelity, permanence, etc.), even though her spouse is not. She has the support, prayers, and love of the Church.

At 1:17 PM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

John, thanks for your questiona about the passage (7:1-16) from St Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. It is important to take a step back and understand the context for the passage. He is answering questions that the Corinthians have posed to him about marriage. The Corinthians had the right idea with some views on things such as marriage, but got carried away in applying them. Paul is responding to some of these; e.g., "it is good thing for a man not to touch a woman" (v.1).

Paul is aiming to correct their exaggerated positions, and so he promotes proper sexual relations bewteen a husband and his wife (v.2-7). Paul is calling married couples to chastity (purity, self-control, etc.); that they live for the other, and give to the other fully. This would be the opposite of lust, where everything is for the self, not for the other. In chastity, I live for you; in lust, I live for me. Paul himself is living chastity, and he "wishes everyone to be as I am" (v.7).

But, then, he makes a distinction in v.8; he addresses the unmarried, and includes himself. He again uses the Corinthian phrase "it is a good thing" to be celibate (unmarried), but corrects it by saying that not everyone is called to celibacy. Paul is celibate, and I presume the Corinthians saw the great value that celibacy can have. But, celibacy is a gift, and not for everyone (thank God, or society wouldn't survive!). What Paul writes in v.9, then, is with the understanding that all are called to live chastity, but not all are called to live celibacy (which was an extraordinary way of life in Judaism).

"but if they (the unmarried and widows) cannot exercise self-control they should marry, for it is better to marry than be on fire" (1 Cor 7:9).

Now, this may be referring to sexual behavior only, but it may not. I would interpret "self-control" on a broader level. I would say that it means that if someone finds that they really feel called to be with another, then they should be married. In trying to live a celibate life (which we all start out doing), the person finds that his true desire is intimacy with a woman, and he can't control it. He might "on fire"... in other words, he can't stop thinking about talking with or just being in the company of a woman. His heart might be on fire for a particular woman or women in general. A life in celibacy would be a very difficult and painful life for him; these would be practical reasons for Paul (and others) to see that such a person is not called to celibacy.

Also, keep in mind that intimacy doesn't have to mean sexual relations only; it could simply mean the natural desires that we all have toward intimacy with another. Again, thinking about, talking with, praying with another...the ordinary experiences of intimacy.

This verse would be consistent with and fall under Paul's framework of different spiritual gifts and vocations. He wouldn't be telling people that if they couldn't control their lust, that they should get married and that will save them (that would encourage lust in marriage and totally defeat all that he had written in the previous verses). He is basically saying that our greatest desire, our greatest fire, is intimacy with another, which finds its end in marriage. Some are called, like him, to sacrifice this for the sake of the Kingdom, as Jesus says in Matthew 19:12.

Additionally, homosexuals are among those that Jesus calls out in Matthew 19 to live chaste celibacy. Paul is affirming that there are different callings for different people, and that there are different gifts associated with those callings. But, general values such as chastity are the same for everyone. Paul is trying to be practical with the Corinthians, but also give them (and us) a real sense of what God is asking of all the different vocations.


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