Parishioner, Albert Betzler, is a student at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. His Professor Tamra Fromm, suggested he submit his reflections to our Sunday Bulletin. Below you will find the second in a series.
If the Resurrection is God’s magnum opus to humanity then I would submit that death is the ultimate test of our faith in Him. Unlike the other dogma of the Church like, say, the Eucharist, there is no room for ambiguity, no room for misinterpretation by other faiths. Either the Resurrection happened or it didn’t; either you believe in it or you don’t. The Catechism says the Resurrection is the crowning truth of our faith (CCC 638). Everything in the Church flows from it and back to it. Without it, Christianity loses its very essence, its very soul. It’s reduced to an empty husk with empty rituals and empty words.
Fortunately, the Church’s teaching on the resurrection of our bodies provides hope to us all precisely because it is linked so inexorably to Christ’s Resurrection and therefore, true, although I suspect many people, despite their belief, still struggle with their own mortality. I know this is true for me. It wasn’t until recently that I realized, sadly, that I have buried more family and friends in the past year than in all the years of my life combined. This spurred me to reflect more seriously upon the Resurrection and to contemplate what it meant, not just for me, but for the ones I loved, both living and deceased. I was struck by two vastly different, but true, points-of-view: the intellectual and the spiritual.
Intellectually, I believe the Resurrection is true. In my mind, there is ample evidence found in Scripture and other sources to reasonably support this. First, none of the Apostles recanted the Resurrection even under threat of torture or death. And while I have heard this argument refuted by skeptics who say that the Apostles dying for what they believed in is no different than a religious zealot dying for what he believes in, I would challenge that assertion by saying that the Apostles did not die for what they believed, but rather for what they witnessed. To me, that’s a huge, life changing difference. As Peter says in Acts 10:39 – “We are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and (in) Jerusalem.”
In the Ecclesiastical History, Quadratus, in his defense of Christianity to the Emperor Hadrian, states that “those that were healed, and those that rose from the dead who were seen not only when they were healed and when they were raised but were constantly present; and not only while the Savior was living, but even after he had gone they were alive for a long time, so that some of them survived even to our own time.” This is similar to what Paul states in 1 Cor 15:6 – “After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.”
Based on this eye witness testimony, if this were a criminal trial, I feel confident there would be enough evidence to prove Christ’s Resurrection beyond a reasonable doubt. This provides my mind solace in my own struggles with death and in the belief of the Resurrection of our own bodies. But my solace isn’t absolute.
Spiritually speaking, however, I know it’s true. This is a bit more difficult to articulate. I just know. This is not esoteric or mystical. It’s kind of like that warm feeling of serenity you get just being in the company of someone you love so deeply that your feelings for each other transcend words. You just know. For me, that knowledge is felt most keenly during Holy Communion or after receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. What I find most interesting is the dynamic between the two concepts. There’s more empirical data to support the Resurrection intellectually and yet, it isn’t until my reason gets involved that doubt creeps in. I have to push it aside and rely on my faith. My faith provides absolute solace and spiritual truth to life’s toughest questions, including the one’s concerning my own mortality. It gives my life meaning and answers questions regarding realities my intellect can’t completely fathom with one hundred percent certainty. As St. Augustine said, “…it is faith that informs and elevates reason, taking it beyond its natural limitations without being demanding or confining in any way.” I believe that to be true.
For me, my faith in the Resurrection is the key to both my life and my death. It’s true. I know it is. Christ was the first to resurrect and all of humanity will one day follow Him. The Resurrection of our bodies should fill us with joy, wonder, hope and awe. We will be like Him, in eternity, with those we love, in Christ, basking in the glory of God, and seeing Him face-to-face as He is! Can one grasp a greater truth? A more beautiful reality?
For those brothers and sisters who doubt, as we all sometimes do, I would say, “Don’t despair! Rejoice and be glad!” Our Lord said He was the God of the living and not of the dead. He is the Resurrection of the life. I for one believe Him. Do you?