Too good to be true
GOD’S WORD TODAY - Manoling V. Francisco (The Philippine Star) - April 15, 2018 - 12:00am

The Mystery of the Resurrection transformed the disciples of Jesus wholly – affectively, intellectually and volitionally.

Affective.  The encounter with the Risen Lord was an experience of divine mercy. Upon Jesus’ arrest his disciples abandoned him. Jesus’ last recollection of his disciples was of betrayal and desertion. Nonetheless, after being raised from the dead the Risen Lord eagerly visits his disciples hiding in the Cenacle room. He does not remonstrate or demand an apology. He simply offers peace and his unwavering friendship, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked… Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you” (Jn. 20:19).

Despite their cowardice and disloyalty, Jesus unconditionally forgives them and commissions them to preach the Good News. And they are transformed for the rest of their lives.

?Intellectual. Like Thomas many of us grapple with our belief in the afterlife, the resurrection of our earthly bodies at the End Time, and the promise of eternal communion with God, all humanity and a recreated cosmos. These just seem too good to be true. Perhaps projections of our protestation against our mortality. Perhaps a delusion to allay our fears of the ultimate meaninglessness of it all.

In Jesus’ time, while the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law, upheld belief in the afterlife, the Sadducees, the priests of the Temple rejected such a belief. For them there was nothing beyond this life and world. Similarly the Romans scoffed at the earliest Christian communities that proclaimed that their crucified master had risen. As of old, so with contemporary times. Many of us today grapple with belief in the afterlife.

The Resurrection is the provocative revelation that death or annihilation of our persons and all creation will not be the last word. Intellectually challenging and counter intuitive because all other human disciplines – cosmology, history, biology – point to decay and annihilation as the ultimate end of the material world. 

The Resurrection reveals to us that all our loving and caring laboring and harvesting, searching and innovating, reconciling and worshipping are not only meaningful as long as the human race persists. Without the resurrection the meaningfulness of human activity would be co-terminus with the survival of the world. The resurrection of Jesus reveals to us that all creation, including our materiality, historicity and corporeality, has eternal significance to God. All will be redeemed. Jesus’ resurrection prefigures what God will do for all creation – transform and draw to eternal communion with Him.

Volitional. How explain the transformation of the disciples from a bunch of cowards to a band of brave men who preached the Gospel all over the Mediterranean and parts of Asia and who confidently faced death, some by crucifixion also? How explain their emergence from the dark but secure confines of the Cenacle and their newfound courage to die for their faith in Jesus – unless they experienced a divine external phenomenon, unless their confidence was anchored on something or someone beyond themselves? For devotion to Jesus and a desire to pass on his legacy are not sufficient to explain their total transformation, the way followers of a human prophet perpetuate his message.

Only the encounter with the Living Christ can explain the audacity of the unschooled Peter’s to preach to philosophers in Rome or the zeal of the vacillating Thomas’ to sail to South Asia to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus. Without the encounter with the Risen Lord, the disciples would most likely have returned disillusioned and broken to their families in Galilee and resumed their former way of life.

?As with the Twelve, so with the rest of Jesus’ disciples. They too were transformed by their encounter with the Risen Lord and by the preaching of the witnesses and disciples of Jesus. From the Acts of the Apostles, we read, “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32).

And so we pray for the grace to be transformed personally and collectively by the Mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the revelation of the triumph of goodness and love over evil and death here in this world and ultimately in the hereafter.

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