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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Our Belief & Unbelief

From the very beginning, there would be those who would doubt the resurrection of Christ. Indeed, even one of his disciples, Thomas, would have to be challenged by Jesus himself to touch his wounds before his skepticism could be swept away. However, the Gospel chronicles another type of rejection as well, one far more resistant to the truth (see Matthew 28:8-15). The chief priest has an inkling that the story of Christ’s coming back from the dead might bear some truth. It is this possibility which he and his cronies seek to hide behind lies. So, they bribe the soldiers to say that Jesus’ disciples had stolen the body at night.

When Jesus stood before the Sanhedrin, it was this same rigid rejection of his messiahship which catapulted him to the crucifixion. Despite the evidence of multiple witnesses, they later disregarded his resurrection. It was not so much that they doubted Jesus, but that they did not want to know who he was. His claims challenged their positions of prestige and power. His assertions about his own personhood shook their accepted norms in regard to monotheism. What did he mean when he said that he and the Father were one? What was this Spirit he would promise to send? Who was he to forgive sins, especially of those who had come nowhere near them in keeping all the precepts of the law?

Such a man was dangerous to them and had to die. And, what is more, he had to remain dead. We might ask, why did Christ not reappear immediately before the Pharisees and chief priests who had orchestrated his demise? If we look closely, this is already obvious for a couple of reasons. The first has already been mentioned; many of them were not interested in the truth of the situation. They hid it from themselves and tried to veil it from others. Back in 1977, George Burns played the deity in a film called Oh God! As proof, God appears before skeptics; but no sooner had God vanished from the courtroom that they began to explain him away as mass psychosis or illusion. Would these ancient figures have been any different? Probably not; the Scriptures would be fulfilled in their regard which says that they would not believe, even if one were to rise from the dead. The second reason is the most telling and we find it in the Gospel where John looked into the empty tomb — he saw and believed. Jesus would not appear or be present to those who did not believe in him. Even Paul, who had persecuted Christians, was only able to see Christ as a light. The reason he could experience the risen Lord at all probably had to do with the fact that he had been mislead about Jesus and yet was still a man very much in love with God. For those who had killed this love, no vision was possible and no witness credible.

The vast host of witnesses to the risen Christ in this period and the Church’s experience of the Holy Spirit throughout the ages stand for us as a most staunch underpinning to our faith. May we always be open to belief and struggle sincerely to help transform our unbelief.

For more such reflections, contact me about getting my book, CHRISTIAN REFLECTIONS.

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