It is noteworthy that none of the Gospels attempt
to describe the Resurrection. They do describe the crucifixion,
for that is something that humans did to Jesus and as such it is
a part of human history and therefore capable of being verified
empirically. The Resurrection, on the other hand, is something that
God did and therefore not a part of human history in the same sense.
It is something that truly happened, but it is a trans-historical
event, that is, a divine intervention into human history, and therefore
an event that the historian as historian can neither prove nor disprove.
God's actions are not the subject of a historian's
study. Historians can study only what humans do, not what God does.
They may believe or disbelieve the Resurrection. But when they make
that choice, they have moved out of their field of expertise. They
have left the discipline of history.
Adapted from Catholic
We can look to Paul's attempt to answer such questions
in writing to the Corinthians: "But someone will ask: 'How
are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?' You foolish
man," Paul replies (1 Cor 15:35-36), but he does not stop there.
He tries to contrast the risen body with the earthly body: "What
is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown
in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is
raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual
body" (15:42-44). Then he tells them a "mystery":
"We shall all be changed...for this perishable nature must
put on the imperishable, and this moral nature must put on immortality"
Taking Paul's contrast as a norm and as a guide,
we can say that there is both continuity and discontinuity between
the old and the new. It was the same Jesus of Nazareth who was raised
from the dead, but he has been changed and transformed. Paul says
that the earthly body was physical, and the new body is not physical,
The same is true, of course, of the Resurrection
as an event. What was experienced in the Resurrection was the already
risen Jesus. No one in the New Testament claims to have seen or
witnessed the actual Resurrection, or even to know what a resurrection
is. They know of the Resurrection by way of an inference from their
experience of the risen Jesus. This is not to question whether it
actually happened; rather, it is to say only that there was no one
who had a direct experience of it and could have described it literally.
Adapted from Scripture
Mark's Gospel reminds us that Jesus' first disciples
were struggling human beings like ourselves. Throughout the Gospel
Mark emphasizes how difficult it was for those who followed Jesus
to believe in him fully because they did not understand that suffering
and rejection were an essential part of the identity of God's Son.
But pain leads to light. The added ending (Mark 16:9-20) recognizes
how an encounter with the risen Jesus brought about faith. We also
hear how those whom Jesus upbraids for lack of faith and hardness
of heart are entrusted with preaching the gospel to the whole world.
As always, Matthew, although he draws on Mark,
is the more skilled teacher, kinder to readers who do not always
see implications. One of the tragic elements in Matthew's Christian
experience is a hostile relationship between synagogue authorities
and Christian believers. Matthew reminds us that the Christian proclamation
of the gospel will not be without struggle. Matthew describes what
Mark only promised: the appearance of Jesus to the disciples. From
a mountain in Galilee the risen Jesus sends his disciples forth
to teach "all nations," making them disciples by baptizing
Like Matthew, Luke follows Mark in the basic story
of the empty tomb, but then goes his own way in the appearances
he reports. Luke sees the Resurrection as fulfilling the Scriptures.
The risen Jesus teaches the Eleven about his death and Resurrection
by explaining the Scriptures, "All the things written about
me in the Law of Moses and in the prophets and in the psalms must
be fulfilled" (24:44).
Luke spotlights Jerusalem as the setting for Jesus'
appearances and ascension. For him the Gospel began with the appearance
of Gabriel to Zechariah in the Jerusalem temple; it ends with Jesus'
disciples in the temple blessing God. Jesus' return to God begins
the life of the Church that starts in Jerusalem (Judaism) and extends
to Rome (the Gentile world).
John's Gospel narrates a series of encounters
as character after character comes to meet Jesus and reacts to him.
Peter and the Beloved Disciple, Mary Magdalene, the disciples and
Thomas encounter the mystery of Jesus' Resurrection.
The last word of Jesus is about the Beloved Disciple.
He is given no role of authority, but he retains a primacy in being
loved, which is more important in this Gospel. To this disciple
is held open the possibility of being there when Jesus returns.
Symbolically that would be the final fruit of the Resurrection:
a believing community of Christian disciples that would remain until
the last days.
Adapted from Reading
the Gospels With the Church.
Jack Comments on Flood of E-mails: You sent more than 150 responses
to my thoughts on Mel Gibsons The Passion of the Christ.
It was the largest and most amazing response ever, with lively comments
both pro and con. It was clear that the film touched hearts with
lightning-like effect and prompted very many of you to feel very
deeply the immense love of God. I was surprised at the large number
of you who saw the film three or more times—so great was its
meaning and appeal to so many of you!
I would estimate that the number of those who
disagreed with my point of view was a little higher than those who
agreed, but opinions were fairly evenly divided. I was grateful
for your highly personal and energetic responses and for those who
said they appreciated my thoughts even though they did not agree.
My own words are brief, so that we can present more of your comments.
"Dear Friar Jack: I would like to comment
on your position that the movie was "too graphic." Jesus suffered
and died a death for us in the most cruel manner ever thought of. The
Father could have picked a host of other methods to accomplish the
same end for Jesus' human form, yet did not. I firmly believe he
chose this most violent and horrible method to demonstrate how horrible
the sin of the world really is. And how unbelievably painful for
a father to bear. It is politically correct to minimize the sufferings.
It "desensitizes" us to what the reality of the crucifiction was
to portray it as anything less that what it truly wasthe most
horrendous and painful way to die that HUMANITY has ever conceived.
And it is also my understanding that the gruesome details are derived
from inspiration received by a visionary. While I'm sure the Church
has not approved this vision, I'm sure that Satan wouldn't want
us to realize the sufferings of Christ more vividly. We all need
to quit candy-coating the reality of what happened, and what WE
have done and still do with our sins."Kevin
"Dear Friar Jack: Many thanks for
your columns, which I really enjoy reading. I am a new subscriber
to your web pages. You are undertaking great works for God at St.
Anthony's. I just want to say a big thank you to Mel Gibson for
the most wondrous film that I have ever seen in my entire life.
The terrible suffering of Jesus depicted in The Passion of the
Christ has stirred me more than any Church service has done
for many years. This authentic movie version of the Gospels
depiction of the suffering of Jesus has had a very profound effect
upon my thinking and faith about this beautiful person in history
called Jesus. Mel brought to life the terrible suffering of a loving
man, truly the Son of God."With best wishes, Stephen
"Dear Friar Jack: My husband and I have
gone to see the movie, The Passion of the Christ, three times
so far. We loved everything about the movie. The actors were very
believable. We felt as though we were there at Jesus' side all during
the passion. We've been reading everything that's been written about
this movie. We have also read the two books by the visionaries that
Mel Gibson read to help make this movie. We will buy the DVD as
soon as it comes out."Roger & Debra
"Dear Friar Jack: While I agree
that there was too much beating of Christ I want you to know that
the film has enhanced my mediations on the Stations of the Cross
and the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary. I felt as though I was
really there. The movie has also made me more aware of the suffering
Christ today in every suffering person on earth today. Thank you."Deacon
"Dear Friar Jack: I have a very brief
statement to add to your comments. Yes, I left the theater in
but I was moved to emotion because of Mary losing her
son, Jesus. That is not to diminish anything about the Passion,
the horrors that Jesus suffered. More so it enhances the pain and
anguish that Mary suffered. I have lost a son to an accidental,
unexpected death. I felt Mary's pain. Meditation on the Sorrowful
Mysteries and the Way of the Cross have always kept me in touch
with the agony that Jesus suffered. Gibson's movie reminded me of
the anquish of a Mother losing her child in such a horrific manner."Sincerely,
(In memory of Pat my only son and second of four children)
"Dear Friar Jack: I teach middle school
children (6th-8th grades) who are going
to make their First Reconciliation and First Communion this year.
Most of them have seen this movie and we've had a couple of discussions
about it. Your last few paragraphs have really helped me to figure
out how to explain why God, who loves us beyond measure, would inflict
that type of suffering on his Son. My problem was figuring out how
to put it into words that they would understand. You've helped me
figure out just how to say to them that it was the "anti-God forces,"
the "enemies of God" who caused Jesus to suffer so and not
his Father. Thank you for your insight and your assistance."Cindy
"Dear Friar Jack: I enjoy your articles
and especially appreciated this one on a film I have, unbelievably,
seen twice. (Went with my son, returned with my husband; don't think
I can make it the third time for my elder daughter.) The film had
an incredible effect on my son and me the first time. It made connections
for me that were stunning and brought to life, above all, the incredible
reality that someone endured that for me.
I imagine Gibson's decisions highlight the fact that all of us have different threshholds of tolerance and distress.
My husband, who curiously can tolerate all sorts of violence in film that I cannot, did not respond positively to the film.
Anyway, I appreciated your words and reflections.
Isn't this what we are supposed to do with art, with conversation?
Aren't we supposed to reflect thoughtfully, independently and in
good faith, knowing that each of us will respond uniquely and learn
from each other? I have found that my Catholic and otherwise faithful
friends have had wildly different responses to the conversation,
and there have been many surprises. It's good to have calm and thoughtful
voices available, though, and you have been one for me."Happy
"Dear Friar Jack: Thanks for the review
of the Passion movie. The severity of the suffering that you say
is over the top can be explained by the demonic influence of the
crowd and roman soldiers. Satan and demons were in full force to
tempt and possess those around Jesus to inflict more pain and torture
than would be given to a normal criminal. I suggest reading The
Dolorous Passion which inspired the movie. The events of the
movie are very clear after reading the visions of the stigmatist
Ann Catherine Emmerich. Keep the Faith!"Marc
Dear Marc and others: In my review, I was not raising questions regarding
Jesus actual passion and death (which was unquestionably severe, violent, intense and dramatic
evidence of Gods incredible love for us) but regarding one human artists (Mel Gibsons)
rendition of Jesus passion. Despite my questions and concerns, it is apparent that Mr. Gibson
achieved something amazing and inspiring for millions. And I salute him for that!
Even if the Church beatifies stigmatist Anne
Catherine Emmerich (whose cause is up for beatification), the Church,
wisely, will not beatify or officially endorse her private
revelations or devout imaginings regarding Christs passion,
even though it allows individual Christians to make their own evaluations
regarding the same. Because of the Churchs long history of
dealing with mystics and seers, however saintly, Im sure the
Church, again very wisely, will present the four evangelists (Matthew,
Mark, Luke and John) as the safest and most dependable communicators
of the meaning of Jesus passion and death.
Rather than add anything more at this point, let
me recommend for your interest the following review
of The Passion of the Christ, which comes from Catholic
News Service. I consider this review very sane, balanced and sensitive.
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