Everything Centers Around the Resurrection
1 Corinthians 15 is the oldest eyewitness account of the resurrection of Jesus. The Gospels are not eyewitness accounts as they were written decades after the resurrection. However, Paul is not only a witness to the resurrected Jesus, he also spoke with the witnesses of the resurrection and the resurrected Jesus. Jesus, by Paul’s account, appeared to five hundred people.
The passage, however, says more than that Jesus resurrected, it also said the following.
if Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. 15 Then we are also false witnesses to God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.
Let me repeat that last line again—If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.
St. Paul in Today’s second reading teaches that our whole lives must be lived with the hope of that resurrection. Now let me put those two thoughts together. If we live only for this life then we are the most pitiable people of all. Further our lives must be lived with the hope of the resurrection.
This is the focus of what it means to be here whether here means in the Church or watching from home online because of the virus. We have a mission to live our lives focused on the resurrection. Nothing else we do matters if we do not have that mission and hope first.
When we have that mission and hope that changes everything. Everything we do is rooted in that simple message that we believe in eternal life.
What is the power of eternal life
Someone informed they are dying goes from the sadness of I have only minutes to live to the joy of knowing I could be in Heaven in a few minutes. A whole different focus.
A Navy chaplain friend of mine related this powerful story from his days in Vietnam. They just finished confession and mass at one of the bases and were leaving the base when missiles came in and hit exactly where they were. Immediately, they turned around and went back to that space. Some of the sailors who attended mass were severely injure. As my priest friend was giving the last rites one of sailors said as he was dying. “We just finished confession and Mass we are going right to Heaven.”
There you go.
We have been through a really rough time a Catholics for these past twenty years especially. We learned some rather disturbing things about some bishops in the McCarrick report. I hope that teaches you what I said before, neither a red, or purple hat or black clerical clothing is a sign of holiness. Jesus himself said by their fruits you will know them. Each one of us ordained and laity have the call to bring forth the fruit of the Gospel. Our desire is not just to get to Heaven ourselves our desire is to bring as many people there as possible. Our number one hope has to be what St. Paul says eternal life in Christ.
The reason is that we are signs of the deeper reality to which Jesus not only acted but to witnessed by his resurrection. That is our prime mission. We have no other mission more important than to testify to the resurrection of the dead by the way we live our life.
Getting back to our first love—Christ
Maybe one of the problems in our church today is that we lost that to some degree. It is important to stand up for social justice of course but our prime hope must be in living our lives with the understanding that one day we will be in Heaven and all of this will be behind us. However, we never want to go to someone’s house hands hanging. If you have not heard that term it means without a gift. Our gift is the others who are in Heaven because we understood our call to testify to the resurrection of the dead is primary.
I personally believe that in light of the McCarrick report and the past twenty years, we need to have a real revolution in this church. We need to get back to understanding that our mission is not only to be on the journey to eternal life but everything we do is to testify to it. Our values, our way of life, our way of treating others, our every minute needs to be focused on our mission as Catholics—being witnesses to hope of eternal life.
I am going to ask you as we draw a close to the worst liturgical year in our lives in a long time that we focus on a new beginning at Advent with the understanding that we have one mission as Catholics—everything else is secondary. We must be witnesses to the world of the truth of eternal life.
Jesus resurrected from the dead and calls us to live our lives with that one hope as primary.
Fr. Roger Luis of Canção Nova teaches that there is one thing God calls us to do and that is to persevere. Our perseverance in these difficult times is part of our witness.
We are surrounded by people who are skeptical of our hope. However, remember the sign of our qualification for our mission is our baptism and confirmation and our focus on eternal life. For one day like that dying sailor we can say we are going right to Heaven if we remain faithful to our mission and do not arrive hands hanging.