By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Easter Sunday 21 April 2019
When several people witness the same event, logic tells you that their description of it would be identical. Experience tells us that this is not the case. The descriptions may be similar but not identical, and that is the situation with the gospel accounts of the resurrection of Jesus.
St Luke tells us that the women who went to the empty tomb on the third day were puzzled. St Matthew says they were afraid and St John says that Mary Magdalene burst into tears. Despite the differences, all the gospel writers agree that Jesus was raised from the dead.
We must also understand that the empty tomb in itself does not prove that Jesus has been raised from the dead, just as the plain cross is not a sign of the resurrection. Both indicate that the body of Jesus has been removed from them.
Those first disciples became convinced that Jesus has been raised is when they personally encountered the risen Christ. If people do not recognise the reality of the presence of the risen Christ in their lives, they are likely to think that Jesus lives on in the memory of his followers, or that the disciples experienced a mass hallucination – but hallucinations are an individual, not a group experience. Attempts to deny that Jesus has been raised in the way the gospels describe it is not good news. What is left does not change lives nor bring hope to the despairing and certainly are not beliefs that are worth dying for.
The good news is that Jesus, the Son of God came from heaven to unite heaven and earth in marriage; to defeat the power of evil and to demonstrate that those who follow his way will live for ever in God’s presence. This is the news that changes lives, and it occurs not when we are in the presence of the risen Jesus, but when we recognise his presence in our lives. It is then that we know we are loved by God and that no darkness can swallow us up.
On Good Friday I said, “no wine – no wedding.” Today I say, “no bodily resurrection – no celebration because there is no good news.”
But there is good news – Christ is truly risen Alleluia.
If there is no resurrection of Jesus then we will not be raised either. In this case, being a ‘good’ person replaces the command to be holy. Being well educated becomes more important than being saved and being enlightened eradicates the need for repentance and taking a new direction in life. If there is no resurrection then we can only save each other. The bad news is that we cannot, we can only love each other. Loving each other is a good thing to do, but only accepting God’s love shown to us on the cross can save us in this life and in the next. “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life; he does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life” (Jn 5:24). If that is not good news, nothing is.
Today heaven and earth rejoices in celebrating its marriage. May this proclamation of victory over evil deepen our courage and trust.
We can do no better than embrace the Easter message of hope that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI delivered in 2011. He said, “The risen Christ is journeying ahead of us towards the new heaven and the new earth (Rev 21:1), in which we shall all finally live as one family, as children of the same Father. He is with us until the end of time. Let us walk behind him in this wounded world, singing “Alleluia.” In our hearts there is joy and sorrow, on our faces there are smiles and tears. Such is the earthly reality. But Christ is risen, he is alive, and he walks with us. For this reason we sing as we walk, faithfully carrying out our task in this world with our gaze fixed on heaven.”
Christ is risen, Alleluia
Monsignor Entwistle was the first Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross. Educated at St Chad's Theological College, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England Diocese of Blackburn in 1964. After reception into the Roman Catholic Church, he was ordained to the priesthood in St Mary's Cathedral, Perth on 15 June 2012.