The acid test of Christianity
Easter Sunday (LEasterB), April 12, 2009
By Fr. Alex McAllister
We associate Easter with Springtime, we relate resurrection with hope and new life. We think of Easter and the resurrection in entirely positive terms. The weather has changed, it is getting warmer, the flowers are out and there are signs of growth and new life everywhere we look; and for us these are signs and proof of the resurrection all around us.
But this is not how a person living in Apostolic times would think about resurrection. They would have found it frightening and even macarbe that a person could come back from the dead.
Death to them was worrying enough; but at least the dead belonged in their own place, even if it was an eerie place, a world of shadows beyond the great river separating the living from the dead.
The idea of a person rising from the dead would be to them like something out of a horror film today; very creepy and rather worrying.
We need to keep this in mind if we are to understand the disbelief of even the Apostles to the news of Christ’s resurrection. It helps us to understand how they could not comprehend Jesus’ words when he spoke to them trying to help them prepare for the resurrection.
It helps us comprehend close followers of Christ like Thomas who refused to believe the other Apostles when they told him that Christ had appeared to them.
It also explains the reaction of the authorities especially when they were looking for a scapegoat. It was very easy to blame, and then actively persectute, a small sect with such strange and way-out beliefs.
My point is that we mustn’t take the resurrection for granted. We mustn’t get so familiar with the idea of the resurrection that we forget how extraordinary it is.
And it is not only the people who lived in Apostolic times that found belief in the resurrection strange, people today find it just as unusual and indeed peculiar. There are hundreds of people living around us who have no concept of life after death and only the very haziest belief in an extremely distant and far away God.
Our belief is that Jesus did rise from the dead and that he appeared to the Apostles. And that by rising from the dead he broke through the barrier of death and opened up for us the way to eternal life with God in heaven. The resurrection is the sign that our sins are forgiven and that God loves us and wants us to be with him for all eternity.
This is certainly Good News. But don’t let us forget that it is also shocking news, news that a very great many people quite literally find incredible.
But being reminded of this we are presented with an opportunity, the occasion to give witness to those who have no belief or very little faith. I don’t mean that we should go round knocking on their doors and giving lengthy explanations that they don’t want.
Certainly not! But we can give witness to Christ and his resurrection in many much more appropriate and acceptable ways. We can find opportunities perhaps when a neighbour experiences a bereavement or an illness or when there is a birth or a celebratory event. We all know that a word of kindness and hope in the right place can achieve wonders.
There are many other moments in life which we can draw other peoples attention to Christ and what he achieved. Easter is certainly one of them. Just wishing our neighbours a Happy Easter is a very good start –people are familiar with Happy Christmas, but being greeted with Happy Easter makes them think a bit.
Today we experience the joy of the resurrection, the birth of new hope for the world. We experience the certainty that death has been destroyed once and for all and that for us death is now the gateway to everlasting life.
Because we have been led by faith to this discovery we live our lives differently to those who have no belief. And it is this that is perhaps the best witness of all to our faith.
And this is also the acid test of Christianity; whether there actually is a difference in our lives.
May God bless each and every one of you, may he fill your lives with Easter joy and bring you in due time to his everlasting banquet in heaven.