17th/18th April 2021

posted 20 Apr 2021, 01:17 by Parish Office

Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter, Year B (17 & 18/4/21)

Back in 2011, the film The Iron Lady was released, about the life of Margaret Thatcher. It’s shot from the perspective of her now being an old woman who has lost her husband and is reflecting on her life, and there are points where she seems to be seeing and speaking to her husband Denis. Does she really see him, or is it all just in her mind? The whole thing has been crafted by the film-writers as a way of telling the story.

Not so the Resurrection. “In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost.” But Jesus not only appears and later disappears, but He is also able to be touched, and He eats with them. And of course, more than this, He also appears to hundreds of other people as well. One or two people could be accused of seeing things. But can you really accuse five hundred people of wishful thinking, and that is was all just in their minds (see 1 Cor 15:3-8)? There are some people who do deny the Resurrection, and even some who call themselves Christians. I don’t know how; St Paul is quite clear, and he connects it with the resurrection of the dead, the belief that at the end of time, we will all be raised up to new life with bodies, just as Christ rose from the dead. This is how he puts it, in his usual, engaging style:

“[If] Christ has not been raised then our preaching is useless and your believing it is useless; indeed, we are shown up as witnesses who have committed perjury before God, because we swore in evidence before God that he had raised Christ to life. For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins. And what is more serious, all who have died in Christ have perished. If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people.” (1 Cor 15:14-19)

Our lives as Catholics hinge on the Resurrection, and just like a door falls on the ground if the hinges break, so without the Resurrection our whole faith falls apart. The Resurrection is part of the proof that what Christ said was true. If He said He would rise again, and then He didn’t, then that rather disproves so much of what He said. But as St Paul continues, “Christ has in fact been raised from the dead…” (1 Cor 15:20).

Sometimes, people try to re-construct the Gospel message according to what they think happened instead. If you do this, then you end up writing your own religion. Occasionally you come across films and documentaries that are supposed to be about what happened in the Bible, but when you watch it, you

think, “Hang on - that’s not what it says”. Certain story-writers have decided to alter it to fit their own beliefs instead. There was one film I watched some years ago, where Christ, instead of being God made man, was instead a rather confused, ordinary man, who worked no miracles, and got a bit confused when people challenged Him. That’s someone’s made-up image of Him, not what we find recorded in the Gospels.

But sometimes, people do try to take a very sceptical view of what is written about Christ, both in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. The trouble is, they take such an extreme approach that if you applied it to other areas of life, most of our historical knowledge would fall apart. Archbishop Fulton Sheen showed that if we use the approach of the Gospels being a “sun god myth”, i.e. it was just adapted from ancient ideas of a sun god, and if we are consistent and apply it to Napoleon, then we get the result that Napoleon never really existed. The life of Napoleon is just ridiculous – it was all just made up (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C369SIr3jXU ).

In the second reading, we have another way of proving the truth of Christianity – the way we live our lives: “when anyone does obey what he [God] has said, God’s love comes to perfection in him” (1 John 2:5). We show by our lives that Christ is alive in us, that this faith actually works. Sometimes actions speak louder than words; at other times, both are needed to fully convince someone – there have to be both the intellectual arguments, and also the evidence of us practising what we preach.

Lastly, the first reading. St Peter is preaching to the ordinary Jewish people after Pentecost. He converts them in a three stage process. Number one: the factual situation: you had Jesus put to death and killed the prince of life, but God raised Him from the dead. Number two: where you stand now with God: “neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing” (Acts 3:17) and it was all part of God’s plan, as was prophesied. Number three: “Now you must turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out” (Acts 3:19). It’s a message of salvation, not of damnation. He didn’t say, “You’re big sinners, and now you’re really in trouble, and there’s nothing you can do about it”. Our message to the world has to be that as Christ died and rose to new life, so we can die to our sins and rise to new life with Christ, and we need to be living proof of the difference it makes.

The reality is that Christ is alive; and because of Him, we can be alive too.