Thursday, 23 April 2015

'The Third Day He Rose from the Dead, and Ascended into Heaven'

‘At that time, when it was late that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together for fear of the Jews, Jesus came, and stood in the midst and said to them: Peace be to you.  And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord.  He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent Me, I also send you. When He had said this, He breathed on them, and He said to them:  Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them:  and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.  Now Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.  The other disciples therefore said to him:  We have seen the Lord. But he said to them:  except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe. And after eight days, again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them.  Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said:  Peace be to you.  Then He saith to Thomas:  Put in thy finger hither, and see My hands, and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side;  and be not faithless but believing.  Thomas answered and said to Him;  My Lord and my God.  Jesus saith to him:  Because thou hast seen Me, Thomas, thou hast believed:  blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed.  Many other signs also did Jesus in the sight of His disciples, which are not written in this book.  But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that, believing, you may have life in His name.’   
(John  XX.  19-31)

                           Resurrection of Christ - Gerard Seghers (1620)

Over Easter we were the beneficiaries of an excellent sermon from Fr Yousef  F.SS.R. on the subject of Our Lord’s Resurrection. As Catholics, indeed as Christians, belief in Christ's resurrection from the dead, is an article of Faith which we are bound to accept. We are still within the period of Paschaltide, and I hope that you do not mind me sharing a few thoughts on this Divinely momentous event.

1.   The tomb wherein Jesus was laid was guarded by a number of Roman soldiers who had been warned by the Jews to be especially vigilant, as Jesus had stated that after three days he would rise from the dead, and they feared that His followers would try to remove His body.  There was no question of entry to the tomb without the guards being aware, and there was no subsequent report by the guards of any attempt to remove Christ’s body. They reported Christ’s resurrection immediately to their superiors, and were bribed and ordered to keep quiet about it as the Jewish leaders wished to keep it secret. (Mathew 28.  11-13)

2.    When Mary Magdalene visited the tomb she found the stone rolled away, and returned immediately to tell Peter and John, who then both ran to the tomb, where they found the linen cloths in which Christ’s body had been wrapped, lying on the ground, and the cloth head-gear neatly folded up. Mary Magdalene later returned to the tomb, and saw two young man each clothed in a white robe,  who told her not to be afraid, and that Christ had risen from the dead. She saw the ‘gardener’, as she thought, and asked him what had happened to Christ’s body. From His reply, she immediately recognised Him as the risen Christ, Who then gently told her not to touch Him as He was yet to ascend to His Father in heaven. She was to return to the disciples and tell them that she had seen Jesus, repeating His words to them, “I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” (John 20.  11-18)

                             Mary Magdalene at Christ's tomb - Rembrandt
3.    Two of Christ’s disciples were travelling on the road to Emmaus, and met a stranger who joined them. The stranger seemed knowledgeable about the events of Christ’s life and explained how all that had happened  fulfilled the prophecies concerning the Messiah. He endeared himself to the men so much that they asked him to stay and eat with them at Emmaus.  At the meal His actions and words were such  that they  recognised him as Christ, whereupon he vanished from their company. (Luke 24.  13-35)

                                                     Supper at Emmaus - Caravaggio

4.     At the beginning of this Post, we learn from St John’s Gospel that the disciples were hiding from the Jews  in a locked room, when Jesus suddenly appeared amongst them. They recognised Him from the wounds in his hands and side, and from His words, and He shared their food with them. The apostle Thomas was not with them on this occasion, and when told later of Christ’s visit, refused to believe unless he actually saw and felt the wounds in His hands and in His side.

5.    A few days later they were again together in the same locked room, this time Thomas was with them.  Christ appeared again, and invited Thomas to feel the wounds in His hands and side, which he did, proclaiming immediately his belief in the risen Christ, with the words ‘my Lord and my God’. Jesus gently rebuked him for his earlier doubt, with the words, “Because thou hast seen me Thomas, thou hast believed, blessed are they that have not seen and have believed”

                                        Incredulity of St Thomas  -  Rembrandt

 6.    Christ also appeared to Simon Peter, James and John, Thomas, Nathaniel and two others of his disciples, when they were fishing in the Sea of Tiberias. They had caught nothing all night, when Jesus called to them from the shore directing them to cast their net yet again, whereupon they were overwhelmed with a huge catch of fish to the extent that the net could hardly hold them.  They then recognised Christ, and Peter jumped overboard and swam to the shore, the others following in the boat. When they had landed they found a fire ready and a fish laid upon it, and bread. Jesus told them to bring some of the fish that they had just caught, and join Him at breakfast. None dared ask him who he was, knowing that He was the Lord.  (John XXI. 3-14)

                                          Miraculous Draft of Fish  -  Tissot
7.    When the accounts of the Christ's resurrection were recorded in the Gospels, many witnesses and contemporaries of the Apostles were still alive. Any doubts concerning Christ’s resurrection, are dispelled by the realisation that the Gospel writers, the Apostles and disciples, and many of their contemporaries and followers, suffered the most cruel martyrdom for the truth of the Gospels, especially the truth of the Resurrection, a truth  more precious to them than life itself, a truth of which they had written and  preached.  The ‘Resurrection’ of Christ is the bed-rock of our Catholic faith, and in the words of St Paul, “If Christ be not risen, vain is our preaching and your faith is as nothing”

8.    Christ’s Ascension into Heaven occurred forty days after His resurrection; witnessed by the eleven Apostles  (Luke 24. 50-53) (Mark16. 19-20) (Acts 1. 9-11)

       Jesus Ascending into Heaven - John Singleton Copley (1775)
9.    Over two millennii, the Catholic Church has grown from a handful of apostles and disciples in a land bordering the eastern Mediterranean, to a Church numbering 1.2 billion members spread throughout the world, and it is still growing. It is the Church founded by Jesus Christ, Who appointed St Peter as the first Pope of an unbroken line of  Popes continuing to the present day, and until the end of time.
In the words of Jesus, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life", and "I will be with you until the end of the world".


I would like to quote from the 'Resurrection', a post by Mgr Charles Pope, 'Archdiocese of Washington' blogsite, April 18th.

  Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish;  he took it and ate it in front of them. He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And thus in this gospel the Lord sets forth a kind of continuity and clarification for them. Through various methods He shows them that though gloriously risen and transformed, He who stands before them now is also the same Jesus who walked with them days before. He shows them His hands and side to indicate that He was indeed the one they saw crucified. He bids them to touch Him and see that He is not a ghost. He eats to console them and to show them that He still has fellowship with them among the living; He is no shimmering apparition from another realm. Finally He opens their minds to the understanding of Scripture, so that they may know that all that happened is not some radical break with or tearing up of God’s plan. Rather, it is a fulfillment of all that was written, all that was prophesied. What seems new and different is in fact in line with, in continuity with, all that has gone before. This is the new Passover that opens the way to the true, more glorious and eternal Promised Land of Heaven. This is not failure; it is fulfillment. This is not rejection of the Old Covenant; it is the ratification of it and the transposition of it to a higher and more glorious level than ever before. Moses gave them Manna, but Jesus gives Himself as the true bread from Heaven. Moses gave them water, but Jesus changed water into wine and wine into His saving blood. The blood of the Passover lamb staved off a death that would later come, but the Blood of the True Lamb cancels the second death of Hell.
 Ack. and thanks to Mgr Charles Pope, 'Archdiocese of Washington' blogsite.                          

Finally a moving and beautiful Easter poem from ‘The Mary Book’, an anthology published by Sheed and Ward, 1950

          Christ in Limbo - Duccio de Buoninsegna (c.1255-1319)
                   (ack. Ronald Klip.

 LIMBO by Sister Mary Ada

The ancient greyness shifted
Suddenly and thinned
Like mist upon the moors
Before a wind.
An old, old prophet lifted
A shining face and said :
“He will be coming soon.
The Son of God is dead;
He died this afternoon.”

A murmurous excitement stirred
All souls.
They wondered if they dreamed ---
Save one old man who seemed
Not even to have heard.

And Moses standing,
Hushed them all to ask
If any had a welcome song prepared.
If not, would David take the task?
And if they cared
Could not the three young children sing
The Benedicite, the canticle of praise
They made when God kept them from perishing
In the fiery blaze?

A breath of spring surprised them,
Stilling Moses’ words.
No one could speak, remembering
The first fresh flowers,
The little singing birds.
Still others thought of fields new ploughed
Or apple trees
All blossom - boughed.
Or some, the way a dried bed fills
With water
Laughing down green hills.
The fisherfolk dreamed of the foam
On bright blue seas.
The one old man who had not stirred
Remembered home.

And there He was
Splendid as the morning sun and fair
As only God is fair.
And they, confused with joy,
Knelt to adore
Seeing that he wore
Five crimson stars
He never had before.

No canticle at all was sung.
None toned a psalm, or raised a greeting song.
A silent man alone
Of all that throng
Found tongue ----
Not any other.
Close to His heart
When the embrace was done,
Old Joseph said,
“How is Your Mother,
How is Your Mother, Son?”


'Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee'.
'St Joseph, pray for us'.