Resurrection Fact

Nain in Galilee

St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote: “The proof of the resurrection we learn not so much from the words as from the works of our Savior.”

The Lord Jesus did, of course, speak about the resurrection of the body. “I am the resurrection and the life.” “The dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” “It is my Father’s will that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up.”

But it wasn’t all talk. As St. Gregory put it, Jesus’ works prove the resurrection. He raised the dead. Like the man we read about at Sunday Mass, in the town called Nain. And the daughter of Jairus, the synagogue official. And also, in John 11, Christ raised… His friend… Kinda rhymes with Nazareth…

Now, why? Why did Jesus raise the dead during His public ministry?

Because He loves the human race. Because He hates death. Because He came to nullify the annihilation of death. He came to turn death into the door to everlasting life.

Christ raised certain individuals from the dead during His pilgrim life, as we read in the gospels. Then, as we also read, when Jesus died, the netherworld shook, and a number of dead people rose in Jerusalem. Then, Christ Himself rose from the dead, never to die again.

All of this indicates the ultimate destiny of every human individual. We will all rise on the last day. The blessed will enjoy everlasting happiness; the wicked will suffer permanent condemnation.

We Catholics do various things to signify, or celebrate, or call to mind, or exercise our faith in the resurrection. Like, at the Easter Vigil, we light the Paschal Candle. And we say we believe in the resurrection whenever we recite the Creed. And we celebrate Mass.

Pope Francis Easter candleThe Mass inherently involves faith in the resurrection. If Jesus had not risen from the dead, the Mass would hardly make sense. But, since He did indeed rise, Christ revives our faith in the resurrection by the very act of feeding us with His resurrected Body and Blood.

A week and a half ago, a certain famous person gave a speech in Vietnam. Part of the speech touched on “universal human rights.” He did not mention the right to life of the innocent and defenseless unborn. But he did extoll the importance of religious freedom. In his speech, President Obama said to the Vietnamese government and people, “freedom of religion allows people to fully express the love and compassion that are at the heart of all great religions.”

Now, even speaking about “all great religions” certainly exceeds my pay-grade. I hardly consider myself qualified to speak about one great religion.

But I can say this without any hesitation whatsoever: If Christianity involves love and compassion—which, of course, it does—if our religion moves us to love others and act with compassion, there is an underlying reason for this. A crucial underlying fact.

After all, love and compassion don’t exactly grow on trees, so to speak. What does seem to grow on trees? Greed, vanity, shallowness, and the tendency to flimflam and b.s. one’s way through life. Sin, in other words, grows on trees.

So: If we have any love and compassion, there’s a reason. Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.

None of the Apostles became Christians—nor the early martyrs, nor the heroic Vietnamese, for that matter, who have suffered in order to bear witness to Christ—none of these people thought to themselves: “Let me become a Christian, let me become a Catholic, because that way I will be able to express the love and compassion that are at the heart of all great religions!”

No. The martyrs and heroes have stared death squarely in the face, with the sacred name of Jesus on their lips, because: He rose from the dead.

The resurrection means that a loving and compassionate divine Heart beats in heaven. The same Heart that loved the widow of Nain and raised her son from the dead, out of compassion for her. Jesus’ resurrection means that loving and compassionating win out, over hating and crushing, in the end.

One of the great half-truths of modern life is: Religion involves ideals. Fundamentally, religion has to do with ideals for us to strive for. Therefore, the ceremonies and specifics don’t matter that much.

Now, of course we need our ideals to strive for. But let me just speak as what I am—a Catholic priest: our religion fundamentally has to do with facts. Not ideals. God became a man and conquered Satan. He died at the hands of us sinners. Then He rose again.

High ideals are great. But any ideal that doesn’t fundamentally have to do with Jesus Christ—what good is it? You can have it; I’m not interested.

The triune God Almighty rules over life and death; over heaven and hell; over past, present, and future. Jesus has revealed that God Himself loves, with compassion. He loves us, has compassion on us, in our sin-soaked mortal misery.

The operative fact is: Jesus lives.


As no darkness can be seen by anyone surrounded by light, so no trivialities can capture the attention of anyone who has his eyes on Christ.
–St. Gregory of Nyssa

…Therefore, we do not dwell on the dismal whimper with which the Georgetown Hoyas ended a once-promising season. Maybe we can dwell on the prospect of the injury-hobbled Hokies making an NIT run.

…Every year St. Joseph gets two days, today (March 19) and May 1. On May 1, our Holy Father Pope Benedict will declare his predecessor to be among the blessed in heaven. That will be the day when we can stop praying for the happy repose of John Paul II and start praying to him…

…Here is a homily for the Second Sunday of Lent:

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. (Matthew 17:1-2)

On the second Sunday of every Lent, we read about the ascent of the Lord Jesus, Peter, James, and John up Mount Tabor. The second Sunday of Lent brings precious memories to my mind, because three years ago today, I began a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I got to see Galilee, to climb Mount Tabor, and then make my way to Jerusalem.

When the Lord and his closest apostles went up the mountain, they, too, were beginning a pilgrimage. It was the pilgrimage that faithful Jews made to Jerusalem for the Passover feast.

Continue reading “Transfiguration”