Saint Brendan celebrated its annual memorial Mass last Sunday. Dozens of pictures were projected onto the church video monitors, as we remembered our loved ones who had recently passed away. I was deeply moved by the presentation, because it was a vivid reminder that the individual stories of our lives, each of which is precious in God’s eyes, do not end with death but live on forever.
The reality of eternal life is central to our faith. Because the immortal Son of God “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness” and “becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross,” and then rose triumphantly from the grave (Philippians 2:7-8), he paved the way for the resurrection of us all. The “children of God” will rise from the dead, Jesus says in the gospel story this weekend, because “he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive” (Luke 20:38).
Years ago while living in Atlanta, I took some classes at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. I remember one of my professors asking the class whether they believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I was astonished by the question, since the room was filled with seminary students studying to become ministers in various Protestant traditions.
For what seemed like an eternity, you could have heard a pin drop. Stunned into silence, no one responded. The question itself seemed to imply and invite a skeptical response, which fearful students dared not challenge. Despite the fact that I was enrolled part-time in an academic program and was not preparing for professional ministry, I was the first to answer. I could feel my temper flaring. I struggled to control myself in front of the class, but to no avail. It was obvious that my emotions were running high, as I told the professor off and emphatically affirmed the truth of the resurrection. The classroom erupted in applause, and rightly so.
Indeed, the empty tomb is the ultimate representation of Jesus’ claim to being God. As the apostle Paul wrote, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Theologian Gerald O’Collins put it this way: “In a profound sense, Christianity without the resurrection is not simply Christianity without its final chapter. It is not Christianity at all.” As Lee Strobel wrote in his best selling book, The Case for Christ, the resurrection is “the basis of Christian hope” and “the miracle of all miracles” (Zondervan 2016, 224).
Join us at church on Sunday, as we continue our quest into the truth of Jesus Christ, history’s most compelling figure. This week in our message series, CSI: Christ Scene Investigation, we take a hard look at the evidence for his resurrection and ultimate victory over death.
—Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson