Today our gospel reading is the very familiar “beatitudes.” And while these are certainly worthwhile statement of Jesus to reflect upon, for this bulletin article I want to reflect upon our second reading today – St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. It is a topic so central to our faith! The Corinthian Christians brought Paul genuine blessedness in their enthusiasm for the faith, their spiritual gifts and their desire to live in accord with the challenges of the good news. Still, their recalcitrance in certain matters and their misinterpretations of some of Paul’s teaching must have weighed heavily upon him. Paul was required to explain at length and in detail several very important truths. From these explanations, successive generations of believers including ours, have certainly benefited. The truth in question today is the resurrection of the dead.
There were a variety of factors that had influenced and distorted the Corinthian believers’ understanding of the resurrection. Fully aware of those factors, Paul was also fully convinced that if belief in the resurrection should unravel, so also would the entire fabric of the faith. For that reason, he wrote with an intensity and a fervor that could not be ignored to affirm the centrality of the resurrection and to dispel all notions to the contrary.
According to Paul, the resurrection of Jesus was not a fable. Paul insisted that it is the story of a real event, a bodily resurrection. Christ, risen from death is not just a symbol or an abstract truth, removed from reality. Therefore, those who deny that God has the power to raise the dead are placing themselves in contradiction to the Gospel. Furthermore, Paul was adamant in his claim that if Christ is not raised then the whole foundation of the Christian faith has been undone and a series of disastrous consequences has been thereby precipitated. The consequences Paul enumerates: 1. Our proclamation is in vain! 2. We are false witnesses! 3. Your faith is in vain and worthless! 4. You are still in your sins and those who have fallen asleep in Christ are the deadest of the dead! All of these consequences lead to a stark result….we are the most pitiable of all peoples!
If Christ is not raised, we preach a message that is an illusion. We offer as a cure for this world’s ills a lie that hides the terrible truth that we are powerless and alone. If there is no resurrection, our lifestyle of self-denial and service makes no sense – those who follow Jesus are mere “chumps” who are missing out on their fair share of this life’s rewards. But, we who stand for Christ and the resurrection are not “chumps”. Rather, we are believers who are willing to be thought of as fools for the sake of the faith. For, as Paul has said elsewhere in his correspondence with the Corinthians, “God has chosen the foolish of the world to shame the wise.” (1 Cor 1:27)
Paul’s writings must have had a profound impact, as we Christians today boldly and steadfastly proclaim that Christ has died! Christ has risen! And one day we will too!
Have a blessed week!