A Pastor’s Thoughts – Why We Believe

A Pastor’s Thoughts – Why We BelieveBy Rev. Steven B. Lewis, Parochial Vicar, The Catholic Parishes of St. Patrick and Blessed Trinity

By Rev. Steven B. Lewis, Parochial Vicar, The Catholic Parishes of St. Patrick and Blessed Trinity —

Christians of the western tradition recently celebrated Easter, the annual commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This event falls so far outside of our usual experience that some Christians of good will may even treat it more as a useful story than an historical event: just another myth among many religious tales rather than a fact. 

The resurrection serves as confirmation for us of everything that Christ taught. So it is an important event for Christians. Saint Paul testified to this. “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor 15:17) Here, Paul has just given testimony of his own encounter with Christ after the resurrection (v. 8). It was an encounter that transformed Paul from an enthusiastic persecutor of Christians to its most passionate missionary (see Acts ch. 9). In fact, the testimony of the lives of all the apostles gives us ample proof that the resurrection did, in fact, occur.

We begin with the behavior of these closest followers of Christ at the time of Christ’s arrest, trial, and execution. As these events approached, Saint Peter gave voice to what many of the apostles probably felt, professing that he was “prepared to go to prison and to die” with Christ. Christ told him straight away even Peter himself would deny him before the next sunrise (cf. Luke 22:33-34).

In the abstract, speaking such words of faithfulness to one’s friends is easy. When facing the brutal reality of the moment, action is harder. Peter’s denial, and the absence of so many of Christ’s followers from the foot of the cross makes sense (John 19:25-26). The disciples hiding from persecution after Christ’s death makes sense (John 20:19). When things quieted down, sneaking off to return to their former lives before Christ called them makes sense. But that last part didn’t happen.

Something else happened to transform this fearful group of followers into bold proclaimers of the Gospel. Almost immediately they ran into opposition (Acts 5:17-42). They were transformed from fearing an end like their teacher to “rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of [Christ’s] name” (v. 41).

On trial himself, Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men” (v. 29). They refused to take the easier path, and almost to a man, they ended up dying for the Gospel.

The truth that they professed to their graves? It was the same truth that transformed their cowardice into courage: their own personal encounter with Christ having risen from the dead. It was an encounter that gave them such hope they had to share the good news; they could not do otherwise, even if it cost them their lives. They had seen what awaits them.

Critics of Christianity will say this is all a peculiarly powerful lie invented to inspire a following. This doesn’t stand to reason. If we think about our own human experience, it is hard sometimes simply to stand up for what’s true. Who would die for a lie? Certainly not cowardly men who would not even stand up for their friend.

Christians believe in the resurrection because it is true. Its witnesses have testified, and their testimony has been handed down to us. And so we proclaim with great joy, “Christ is truly risen! Alleluia!”

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