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Dr. John Lee
YOUR LIVES ARE HIDDEN WITH CHRIST IN GOD (COL 3:3)
In our Easter texts and those at Mass today there are two ways of thinking about the resurrection presented by the inspired authors. They tells us about what had happened to Jesus in being raised from the dead, and what happened to people who believe that Jesus is raised from the dead. Clearly there would be no point in talking about the second aspect if the first were not true. The Gospel writers state unambiguously that the tomb was empty, that it was found to be so by the principal witnesses, and that while Peter did not believe first that Jesus was raised from the dead the Beloved Disciple did so believe immediately.
The writer to the Colossians knew that the Colossian community had no first hand experience of Jesus raised from the dead. They accepted this as Gospel truth because whoever had evangelised them had told them so. Now in our text they are being offered something astonishing. They are being given something like empirical evidence- hard practical evidence- of the resurrection available to them in their own experience as believers. They are to have a certain mindset, to have heavenly thoughts contrasted with their ordinary common thinking about everyday things.
What can possibly happen to people who believe in the resurrection? What sorts of effects are they to experience by so believing? It may be supposed that faith with the baptism experience is fundamental in the thinking of the author of the Epistle (2:11). Conversion to Christ was not just at the level of ideas.
This conversion is the name given to becoming something different. The believer lived differently. Did that mean that believers were simply not involved relationally in this world any more? Certainly not. While one is alive there is no other world to live in. The ordinary world is taken so seriously by the author of the epistle that he articulates a whole set of exhortations a little later for his readers. He tells them what to cultivate and what to avoid in keeping their faith pure. Love and truth keep on coming up. The same is true in Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, 1:5.6b-8. Christians are to be the leaven in the lump, avoiding all perverse things, and proffering to others the azymes of sincerity and truth. Telling the truth, for instance, avoiding excesses in food drink and personal preferences.
Ourselves and Resurrection
We may tend to take our faith for granted. This came home to me powerfully in an amusing way on the tennis court when I was a student at the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem. On that Easter Sunday morning (1966) I was wakened up at 6 o'clock to find Père Roussée on the court, below my room, practising his serves. He had a red beard and a temper to match it; and he had once flattered me that I was the best tennis player that year in the Ecole Biblique. But surely he could not have been worried about the quality of his tennis on Easter Sunday morning- a mere five hundred yards distant from the Holy Sepulchre? But there he was all alone practising his erratic serves. The night before we had had the Vigil as usual. Later in the day we would have the Easter Mass and a banquet to honour the most important event since the foundation of the world. Practising one's serves at 6 a.m. that sunny morning seemed somewhat profane and self indulgent, taking one’s faith for granted. I did not have enough energy nor enthusiasm to try walking later the 18 miles to Emmaus like the two first century disciples and some of my fellow students! The bus would do nicely for me.
Prescinding from these esoteric things, the Church celebrates on Easter Sunday morning the fundamentals of our faith. Jesus Christ is a real Person still alive, in our humanity, in eternal happiness, and bestowing eternal happiness. We relate with him as, in the Resurrection texts, he related with those he then loved on that first Easter morning. He and they were on first name terms. It is as intimate as that. He was then and is now the eternal Son of God, the earthly son of Mary. Ready to hug him they adored him. Are the two dispositions so different? I do not think so, and that is the whole point of Christianity. That is what it all means ultimately: God and human beings in intimate relationship; the closeness of the relationship, established for ever in Jesus of Nazareth- mirrored obviously in his mother. You throw your arms easily round him; he is so nice (Jn 20:17); and then in awe you fall down and adore him, for he is divine. He says: throw your arms round the least of these my little ones and then you have got it right. And we cannot do it easily, of course, and anyway do we really mean it if we do it? Yet all the time it this the lived experience of the vine and the branches (Jn15:5). The resurrected Christ lives in all believers. He was talking about you and me; he was talking about us and them; he was talking about us and us. Suddenly he belonged to everyone, and those who truly belong to him belong to everyone.
Resurrection: God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.
For Christ plays in ten thousand places, Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.
Rubbish, says the sceptic. But on Easter Sunday morning we are not here to argue with the sceptic. We are here to celebrate together what we believe in, and what it is that gives meaning to the tiny piece of history we call our own. Are we not all born on a specific date and stay until a specific date when our story ends? Was it ever different since the world began? In the Beginning was the Word- and we saw His Glory. Go teach all nations....in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, because Jesus Christ is alive to endless ages. Amen. That is what Easter proclaims.
A Happy Feast to us all.
Rev Richard J.Taylor
Boarbank Hall, Cumbria, UK