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He Rose Again

By Br Mark O’Connor FMS, 30 October 2020
An Icon of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as featured in the Red Square, Moscow, Russia. Image: bonilook/Shutterstock.

 

There are times when some people can lose hope.

Certainly one meets people these days whose faith and hope in the Church have been severely dented. They seem embarrassed that they are Catholics, apparently accepting the view that the sinfulness of the Church (especially of some of its ministers), somehow ‘cancels out’ the ocean of goodness that can be found in our living Church both past and present.

‘Why stay a Catholic?’ these people ask, given all that has been done wrong? The only real reason is because Jesus is risen! And I firmly believe that the Church—for all its fragility and unfaithfulness—is a key witness to that Resurrection in this world.

Recently, I was greatly helped in understanding more of this mystery by reading a sermon by the wonderful theologian John Hull. Hull, who became blind in 1980, has been a luminary in religious education in Britain for decades. Hull points out that in the Gospel of Mark the Resurrection takes place in silence. There is almost something modest and ordinary about it. There was a quiet, with a stillness that only love and fear can create.

In Matthew there is an earthquake, a flash of lightning as a mighty angel descends, the heavy stone is rolled back with force, the crash of armour as the frightened guards fall to the ground. But in Mark, there is none of this. Instead, there is silence.

Inside the tomb is a young man wearing the white robe of the martyr. His voice breaks the silence. ‘Do not be afraid! You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen. He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter he is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’

Hull perceptively notes that most Christians have found this silence difficult. We are so keen on ‘winning’, on triumph. We should not be surprised at hostility. Jesus told us to love those who hate us. He never promised us that we would be loved in return by them.

But as it was with the first followers of Jesus, so it is with us. After the apparent defeat of Jesus by the Roman and Jewish authorities, there is something in our human nature that cries out for a victory and a huge celebration. We want to clap and cheer as the hero, our hero, returns. But the Evangelist Mark does not seem to want to allow us this very human pleasure.

It is very understandable that many in the early Church had difficulty with this ‘silence’ of Mark. The ending was too sharp and abrupt. How could the Resurrection, which had begun in fear, not end in joy? How could it end in silence and even fear? Maybe we too can agree with their puzzlement.

But Mark has his point. According to John Hull, the Evangelist places us, as his readers, inside the Resurrection story, caught midway between the empty tomb and the Resurrection appearances. It is as if the Resurrection story is incomplete without us.

Listen again to the young martyr: ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee’. The angel is telling us something beautiful about how we experience the Risen Jesus even today in silence. He is telling us: ‘You will find him when you refuse to allow his death to be final; when you make his work live, he will live with you. You will find him when you go on to whatever is your Galilee.’ And yes, this is our Galilee now, as we live in the present-day realities of Australian society and the Church.

The key message is clear. The appearances of the risen Christ also take place through us. The story of the Risen Jesus is incomplete until it is completed in us. For as St Teresa of Avila prayed: ‘Christ has no body now on earth but yours.’

As we ‘break bread’ for the life of others, we encounter the Risen Jesus in the amazing explosive victory of the God of Life that we call Resurrection. Even in the silence of our lives and especially in difficult times, he is still with us. Listen to the poet Emily Dickinson, who says it so well: ‘Love is the person of the Resurrection, scooping up the dust and chanting, Live.’

 

CHRIST HAS NO BODY

Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

Compassion on this world,

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,

Yours are the hands, with which he

blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,

Yours are the eyes, you are his body.

Christ has no body now but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

compassion on this world.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

– Teresa of Avila (1515–82)

 

This article is part of a series of reflections entitled ‘I Believe…Help My Unbelief’: Meditations on the Creed by Br Mark O’Connor FMS.

Br Mark O’Connor FMS is the Vicar for Communications in the Diocese of Parramatta.

 

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