Irish Dominican Church, Tralee, Co Kerry
Reflections for the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (17th February 2019)
For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins...But Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep, (1 Corinthians 15:13, 20).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 2000 years ago introduced a new axiom to our way of thinking and acting out in the world. That axiom is something like "where there is death, there can be resurrection". Christ's resurrection means that death does not have to have the final say. It means that suffering does not have to be for nothing. It means that those sacrifices we make to improve the lives of those around us, are not done in vain.
Fundamentally, it means that as you go through life and at times experience darkness or despair, hardship, persecution, poverty, or sickness of any kind, that you can have reason to hope once more for the future. Why? Because 'where there is death, there can be resurrection'. This is true of your life here and now, not just in Heaven above. There can be new life, resurrection. Jesus teaches us that resurrection and Hope are possible, where we see any form of death. But they are possible, St Paul reminds us, because Christ Himself truly has risen from the dead. If He has not risen from the dead, then that axiom 'where there is death, there can be resurrection', would have no basis in our reality.
Because this axiom is true, we can live in the world with an approach of self giving, of bringing about new life and love in those around us. We can be willing to sacrifice for the good of our neighbour. We can be patiently strong in the face of those who are bullies. We can endure hardship and suffering because we know it is not meaningless. If our axiom is untrue, however, then the logical approach to life would be rather different. It would be to act solely in our self interest, get out of life as much as possible, and avoid hardship and suffering at all costs, because death is permanent and any suffering, for ourselves, and especially for others, is meaningless. Without this axiom, life is about keeping the party going as long as you can, so to speak, because you know that, eventually, the party will end.
A saint like St Mother Theresa of Calcutta can exist because she knows that Christ rose from the dead. Because of that, the sacrifice of her life is worth it. As was all of her suffering. She saw death and darkness around her, and for that matter, within her, but she also saw that possibility of resurrection, of new life. She, in a sense, became the axiom 'where there is death, there can be resurrection', and we venerate her for it. Mother Theresa became a source of new life and resurrection for countless people to whom she served. So can we, her life says.
And so, this axiom of ours, since it was brought into the world by Christ, transforms us. Without it, we would have little reason to act in a manner that went outside of our own narrowly defined self interest. We would have little reason to show mercy, unless you gained by it. Nor would you have a reason to dedicate your life to ending poverty or world hunger, unless you profited by it in some way in the long run.
This axiom saturates and underpins our profoundly Christian shaped culture, even today. Our western world, and Ireland within it, for all its secularism, still operates from this axiom, whether it wants to acknowledge the source of this axiom or not. Ironically, even the most critical atheist, usually still acts out this most Christian of Axioms without knowing its source!
But this axiom of ours does not have to underpin our culture, and St Paul observes, that if there is no belief in the resurrection of Christ from the dead, this axiom becomes meaningless. And if faith is eroded, this axiom underpinning our culture will, in time, be forgotten, to the world's great detriment. And so, it's our job, as the People of God, to, like Mother Theresa, become that axiom- "where there is death, there can be resurrection". But to do so in our own unique way. To leave the party of self interest, and venture out to preach and proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the dark places of people's lives. Tell them that Christ is and was "life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:4-5). We will find that Christ has, as usual, already left the tomb, and is waiting for us.
Written by Fr Daragh