Friday, September 17, 2010

If Christ Has Not Been Raised, Your Faith Is Vain. But Christ Has Been Raised, The Firstfruits Of Those Who Have Fallen Asleep.

Friday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading I
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Brothers and sisters:
If Christ is preached as raised from the dead,
how can some among you say
there is no resurrection of the dead?
If there is no resurrection of the dead,
then neither has Christ been raised.
And if Christ has not been raised,
then empty too is our preaching;
empty, too, your faith.
Then we are also false witnesses to God,
because we testified against God
that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise
if in fact the dead are not raised.
For if the dead are not raised,
neither has Christ been raised,
and if Christ has not been raised,
your faith is vain;
you are still in your sins.
Then those who have fallen asleep
in Christ have perished.
If for this life only we have hoped in Christ,
we are the most pitiable people of all.

But now Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Although the core of the Gospel proclamation was that Christ had been raised from the dead, there were Christians in Corinth who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.

For Paul, Christ’s resurrection, of which the apostles are witnesses, is the decisive proof of the future resurrection of all, which is something the Old Testament early on suspects and hopes for but eventually asserts quite plainly. This is why the resurrection of Christ is the foundation of faith. The risen Christ can be called the first-fruits, not only heralding but causing the resurrection of all Christians.

Paul throws down a strong challenge to the logic of the Corinthians’ doubts. He makes eight points to show the falseness of their position:

If there is no resurrection from the dead,

     1. then Christ himself has not been raised;

     2. all preaching of the Gospel is therefore useless;

     3. as is their faith in Christ, who, in this hypothesis, no longer exists.

     4.  Paul and his colleagues are guilty of telling terrible lies when they say they have had a personal experience of the Risen Christ;

     5. and the faith of the Corinthians has no basis whatever.

     6. They are still in their sins which have not been forgiven when they were baptised.

     7. All their brothers and sisters who have died have gone into total oblivion.

     8. And if faith in Christ is valid only for this life, then the Christians are among the most to be pitied for enduring so much hardship and persecution for something which ends in nothing.

None of this makes sense, concludes Paul. He categorically states his conviction that Christ has been raised from the dead and he is the ‘first-fruits’ who leads the way for all others who die his followers. It was the custom for the Jews to offer the first sheaf of the harvest to the Lord, as an acknowledgement that the whole harvest was his gift and would be used by his people in his love and service.

Similarly, Christ is the first ‘sheaf’ of the great harvest which will be gathered together by God to be with him forever. We too pray that we may be included in that great harvest.*
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Psalm 17
Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
Hear, O LORD, a just suit;
attend to my outcry;
hearken to my prayer from lips without deceit.
Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me; hear my word.
Show your wondrous mercies,
O savior of those who flee
from their foes to refuge at your right hand.
Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
Hide me in the shadow of your wings,
But I in justice shall behold your face;
on waking, I shall be content in your presence.
Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
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Luke 8:1-3
Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another,
preaching and proclaiming
the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Accompanying him were the Twelve
and some women who had been cured
of evil spirits and infirmities,
Mary, called Magdalene,
from whom seven demons had gone out,
Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza,
Susanna, and many others
who provided for them out of their resources.
This passage follows immediately from yesterday’s about the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee. It is one of those summary passages describing in general terms the work of Jesus.

He is accompanied by the chosen Twelve, his co-operators in the preaching of the word and the establishing of the Kingdom. And it is precisely the Good News (the Gospel) about the Kingdom that they are preaching in word and demonstrating in practice.

What is noteworthy here - and it is unique to Luke - is the mention of many women also travelling in the company of Jesus. Some of them were women who had been healed of evil spirits. One is mentioned by name, Mary of Magdala, from whom seven evil spirits had been exorcised. The number seven is not to be taken literally but indicates the woman had formerly been in a seriously immoral state. She appears very prominently in John’s gospel as someone very close to Jesus and he describes her as the first witness of the Resurrection. It is possible, too, that the “sinful woman” in the house of Simon the Pharisee was also in the group.

Some of the other women seem to be of more ample means and higher social rank. One of them was Joanna, the wife of King Herod’s steward. They helped Jesus and his disciples with their material needs. Once again, Jesus is not embarrassed to travel in the company of these women; nor are they uncomfortable in his.

We see here two roles being played by followers of Jesus. On the one hand are the apostles whose function it is to proclaim the Gospel and establish the Kingdom by word and deed, by preaching and by the example of the communal and shared life they are leading.

The other role is that of disciples who are materially better off and who support the work of proclaiming the Gospel by providing for the material and other needs of the evangelisers.

Both roles are complementary and both, taken together, form the evangelising work of the Church.

A good example are the Sisters of Mother Teresa who would never be able to take care of the destitute dying without the generous help of many benefactors. And the same for many other voluntary groups involved in looking after the disadvantaged.*

The Irish Jesuits

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