Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Georges Farah, Henri Boulad and Ibrahim Ibrahim: The Joy of Easter and the Renewal of Life in the Church

In the joy of Easter, the community sings “Christ is risen…He has truly risen.” Indeed, I recall Fr. Georges Farah speaking about the “sealed tomb” in which the leaders of the Romans and Jews of the time thought they could bind or choke the Word of God. Yet, he, Jesus, liberated himself and his followers from that darkness. Yes it was dark for 3 days, but Christ moves the large stone and comes out giving hope to all who are without hope.  He revisits the Apostles only to step to the doubtful Thomas and invites him to touch his wounds because he loves the man Thomas and wants him to trust that his Master is alive in spite of death. Surprised, Thomas answers “My Lord and my God!” For us, weak humans, we may easily doubt or despair when faced with injustice, violence, doubts or darkness. However, we have among us the victorious Christ who continues to encourage us and build his Church.

Lately Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J., spoke about Abraham who went in an adventure from Ur in the Chaldean land (Iraq today) all the way following the inspiration of God. By leaving everything to follow God, this giant of faith was spiritually born – a birth not attached to flesh. And God promised Abraham more offspring than the stars he could count in the sky. For Abraham, God was the "all". His offspring, billions of them in all continents today, are so many only because he went after his passion for God.  I have to leave everything for God to be born, said Fr. Boulad. And this is the grace of faith that the risen Christ -who trampled upon death - bestows on us, the Church.

After Bishop Ibrahim lectured us at Jesus the King Church, I wrote a little post on the blog which I think is appropriate for the Church to reflect on as we move together in the celebrations of Easter towards Pentecost that marks the birth of the Church. The entire reflection can be found here:

But I only wish to share what he looked like when he spoke about the Church:
Here he was teaching the flock! Everything we have is a gift from God, he resounded. “Everyone is given talents which can and should be invested to serve the other – Not only bishops or priests are called to the priesthood; for we all have a share in the priesthood of Christ” echoing the authentic teaching of the Church expounded in Vatican II. Then, in a moment of sheer greatness - the greatness of humility, he turned to the parents and to the young youth who came to hear him and said in a bold voice: It is true that the Church needs the youth, but it is also true that the youth need the Church. “Without you the Church will have no future, but remember too that without the Church you will have no future.” A silent moment went on as if I was gazing into eternity! Then Bishop Ibrahim gave the final word that every young Christian must remember and every parent must teach his children. He said “We are not a social club but the Apostolic Church that fed many generations for 2,000 years – There is absolutely no comparison between what each one of us can give and what the mother of all has given and continues to give!” 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Gerald O'Collins S.J.: Believing in the Resurrection

In 2012, the renowned Biblical scholar Gerald O'Collins, S.J. authored a book entitled "Believing in the Resurrection."

In the first section, he debunks recent ideas of some critics about the authenticity of the Resurrection of Christ. Since these are scholarly notes, I wish to summarize them here for any future questions or criticism.

Dale Allison (2005) claims that the idea of the Empty tomb depends on the burial story which is historically real. However,  the Apostles experienced the risen Christ as a mere subjective feeling of bereavement over the dead Jesus.  Resurrection has been swallowed up in psychology. Here Dale Allison denies the Divine initiative of the Resurrection, e.g. the Appearance  of Christ to the Apostles and later to over 500 disciples at same time.

Daniel Smith (2010): the Resurrection story is similar to Greco-Roman myths of Heracles, Romelus…etc. But the Greco-Roman myths refer to people who lived in a very distant past, unlike Jesus whose Resurrection is reported within decades after his death. In Mark, it is hard to find influence from Greco-Roman myths (Adela Yarbro Collins). Smith also ignores the findings of Richard Bauckham that the period between Mark and other Gospels was spanned by testimonies of eyewitnesses (Peter, Mary Magdalen, sons of Zebedee…). 

Geza Vermes (2008) replicates the ideas of his friend Paul Winter that Jesus rose only in the sense of being loved by his followers who “felt” that he was still with them in spirit. Against this interpretation of the Resurrection experience as a mere subjective feeling, O'Collins cites St. Paul in 1 Cor. 15, an early Epistle, in which Paul says “I handed on to you…what I in turn received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised…and that he appeared to Cephas [Peter] then to the twelve…”. O'Collins also notes that Vermes joins Bultmann in dismissing the 3 predictions of Jesus about his own coming death and resurrection in Mark (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34), but in fact, the 3 predictions in Mark do not specify killing by crucifixion. This supports the widely held view today that the passion predictions in Mark are not free inventions and contain a historical kernel that Jesus anticipated his death and divine vindication through resurrection.

Philip Pullman (2010) fabricates a story from  a legend created  a century ago by Nicolas Notovitch  (1894) and Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1899 in Urdu)  in which Jesus was taken alive from the cross (never died on the cross!), went to India and died there. Others claimed that he was taken alive from the cross and went to France where he fathered children by Mary Magdalen (Dan Brown in his book the D'Avinci Code, Elaine Pagels, and others...). Pullman now twists it to a case of deception in in the story of the empty tomb and the dialogue on the road to Emmaus. Pullman claims that Jesus had a twin called Christ!  Through a mysterious demonic “stranger” Christ leads the guard to arrest Jesus on Thursday night. After Jesus died on the cross and was buried, the “stranger” organizes several men to remove Jesus’ body and persuades Christ (the twin) to return the next morning and play the part of the risen Jesus!! Mary Magdalen meets Christ thinking he is the risen Jesus. Christ then joins the disciples on the road to Emmaus and appears to them as Jesus. The rest of the disciples are now convinced too that Jesus rose from the dead! This is the Conspiracy Theory in a new form. It fails scrutiny too since he ignores the appearances of the risen Jesus in Galilee (Matt 28: 16-20; John 21; and implied by Mark 16: 7), the appearance to Peter (1 Cor 15:5; Luke 24: 34); the appearance to more than five-hundred disciples (1 Cor 15: 7) in addition to the appearance of the risen Jesus to Paul. Pullman's story is a fiction which hardly deserves serious scholars attention.

More exploration in the book by Gerald O'Collins will show us why everyone who is seriously looking for the truth must believe in Christ and his Resurrection as testified by the continuing tradition of the Church! To be continued...

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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