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Father Vincent Hawkswell

Christianity rests on the facts

Voices April 15, 2019

Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection. Father Hawkswell writes that Christianity’s ethics make sense because of its facts: God became man, died for us, and rose again on the third day. (Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov/Wikimedia)

Easter Sunday, Year C
First Reading: Acts 10:34a, 36-43 
Second Readings: Rom 6:3-11, Col 3:1-4, 1 Cor 5:6b-8 
Gospel Reading: Lk 24:1-12, Jn 20:1-18, Lk 24:13-35

At Easter the whole Church rejoices that Jesus, who died and was buried on Good Friday, rose from the dead on the third day.

“The Lord of life, who died, reigns glorified!” we say in the Sequence. “Share the good news, sing joyfully: his death is victory!”

To see just what Jesus’ resurrection means for us, imagine the human race as it must appear to God.

God does not experience reality moment by moment, as we do. Part of our reality, our past, we have already lost. Another part, our future, we have not yet grasped. But there is nothing that God has lost or not yet grasped; he is infinite.

If we could see humanity spread out in time, as God does, it would look not like many separate individuals, but one single growing thing, like a very complicated tree, for we have all grown from our parents, our grandparents, etc.

In Jesus Christ, God took on our nature. He became fully man, a branch on the human tree, while remaining fully God. In him, therefore, divine life was injected into the tree. It spread to the whole tree, past as well as present and future, like a little yeast raising a whole batch of dough.

“I came that they might have [divine] life,” Jesus said, “and have it to the full.” He himself was so full of this life that when he wished to die, he had to be put to death. He was so full of life that his death could not be permanent; his soul could not “remain among the dead” or his body “know decay.”

If we, now, “catch” the new, divine life from Christ, we will be like him: we will not die permanently, either.

By his sin, Adam made the world subject to futility. To many people, it still looks that way; that is one reason why they commit suicide. But we know that “the world itself will be freed from its slavery to corruption” and decay. That is why, as St. Paul says, “the whole created world eagerly awaits the revelation of the sons of God.”

To “catch” divine life from Christ, we must first be baptized. Baptism injects divine life into us, transforming us from God’s artifacts (things he has made) into his children, who live with the same life he has.

To nourish this new life, we must “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,” or it will die, as Christ warned. At the same time, we must actively live our new life, avoiding sin and setting our minds “on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

Even before baptism or the Eucharist, however, we must hear and believe the facts: that God became man, died for our sins, and rose again on the third day.

St. Peter considered these facts important; look at the First Reading. So did St. John: look at the Gospel Reading. So did Jesus: look at the alternative Gospel Reading. So does the Church, which chose these readings.

And so did the apostles, who, to replace Judas, chose “one of those who were of our company while the Lord Jesus moved among us,” someone who could act “as witness with us to his resurrection.”

Some people hold that the differences separating those who believe in God are not important. After all, they argue, nearly all religions teach practically the same ethics: do this, don’t do that.

However, Christianity differs radically (“from the roots”) in its facts: God became man, died for us, and rose again on the third day. It is those facts that make sense of the ethics, those facts that make us rejoice today.

If we really believe them, we will go out of church this Sunday greeting each other like the early Christians: “The Lord is risen!” “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”