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Credo 24 - On the third day He rose again ...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007
‘If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is without substance, and so is your faith’ (I Corinthians 15:14). With these words Saint Paul reminds us that the reality of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead stands at the centre of all we believe and confess as Christians. Yet how firm are the foundations on which we base our faith in the resurrection? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the New Testament bears witness to the mystery of the resurrection as ‘a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified'.

It is interesting to recall the reaction of the apostles when they first heard the news of the resurrection. Shocked and demoralised by the violence and suffering of the crucifixion, they considered the idea that Jesus had risen from the dead to be an impossibility. As Saint Luke tells us, when the women ‘returned from the tomb and told all this to the Eleven and to all the others […] this story of theirs seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe them’ (Luke 24:9,11).

Yet this initial dismissive reaction was to change radically when the risen Christ appeared to the disciples and - by allowing himself to be touched and by eating with them - demonstrated the continuity between his risen, albeit glorified, body and the body that had been tortured on the cross. The Gospels build up a series of ‘signs’ which testify to the historicity of the resurrection. We read of the empty tomb, the appearances of Jesus first to Mary Magdalene and the holy women, and then to Peter and the twelve disciples. Saint Paul tells the people of Corinth that Jesus appeared to more than five hundred of the brethren, most of whom were still alive when Paul was writing his letters.

Thus the faith of the first disciples in the resurrection comes about through their direct experience of and encounter with the risen Christ. The resurrection is not a product of the credulity of Christ’s followers or some sort of invention in order to continue the ‘cause of Jesus’. It is the source of our own future resurrection from the dead. As Saint Paul says, Christ has risen from the dead ‘as the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep’ (1 Corinthians 15:20). This is described in the beautiful ancient homily that is read on Holy Saturday when Christ descends among the dead to call them to new life: ‘Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person’.


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