Resurrection is for living

As we prepare to celebrate the risen Christ next weekend, it is timely to consider how those early communities that formed each account of Jesus’ death and resurrection might have gone about discussing and then recording their memories. Here Br Kieran Fen

Kieran Fenn fms

Each of the four gospels tells the resurrection in a particular way, shaping the meaning of the appearances of Jesus for the original readers – and for us today. Matthew’s version of all of Jesus’ appearances around Jerusalem may not have suited Luke’s community in the wider world, any more than Luke’s version might have fitted the situation that Paul or John addressed. There are four gospels, not one; four accounts of the resurrection, distinctive in detail, with a single event lying at the basis. God raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead, and in so doing, called us to look more deeply into the meaning and life of Jesus the Christ.

Each resurrection account presents a fresh pastoral challenge to its readers, then and now. All appearances involve a task given, a commissioning. We who believe in the resurrection have to live lives that show it.

The women at the end of Mark 16:8 had to break their fearful silence to proclaim that Christ has risen. They did and that is why we have the Gospel of Mark.

Matthew 28:16-20 is a powerful statement to the community we call Church to make disciples, baptising and teaching in the assurance of the risen Christ’s ongoing presence. Did the RCIA programme in your parish indicate this was still happening?

Luke gives our longest resurrection story with the Emmaus journey. Does the risen Lord come to you in the breaking of the word and bread in your life? Does your heart burn through hearing the Scriptures and partaking of the Eucharist? Does repentance and forgiveness (Lk 24:47) accompany you through life?

From John we see that mysterious figure, the Beloved Disciple, an inclusive symbol for all of us in coming to faith in the risen Christ. This figure reached the tomb first and believed first. We are called to be beloved disciples.

Mary of Magdala is the other great figure, told to let go of her past image of Jesus to embrace a new relationship with her risen Lord. Is our faith journey one of growth?

Before all the evangelists Paul wrote of the central truth of Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, boldly proclaiming ‘If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain’ (1Cor 15:14). Paul addressed a community that needed to be reminded of the tradition: ‘I handed on to you… what I received’ (1 Cor 15:3).

Paul died for his message; we can safely believe the witness of those who gave their life for the truth of what they experienced of the risen Christ.

Faith and living out the resurrection is a lifetime of work, indeed it is the work of a lifetime – spreading the faith, loving one’s family into Christ, handing over our dead to the author of life, ministering in a spirit of Christ-like service to parish and family, seeking ways to make the presence of the risen Christ more alive in our diocese through the synod.

Christ is risen and alive in us and in our Church.