THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER

When someone tells us they know a secret we are immediately captivated by fascination with it.  A secret has an almost magical power to it.  And most people just can’t wait to find out what it is, especially if the secret is about someone we know.

Cheap, trashy magazines are filled with headlines screaming at us about the secrets of celebrities and politicians.  Many adults are driven to find out about secret tips involving their stock investments and how to make even more money.  Teenagers can be spellbound when it comes to discovering secrets about the most popular boys and girls in school.  We think that knowing what the insiders know will give us an advantage that ordinary people lack.  Most people get at least a little thrill about knowing something others don’t.

And yet it’s a well-known fact that when it comes to buying stocks and shares, or betting on a horse, people lose tremendous amounts of money by investing on secret tips.  And when it comes to our relationships with others, we can easily lose our friends when we gossip about them and reveal their secrets.

This same fascination is found today when it comes to discrediting Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  There are numerous conspiracy theory books claiming to tell us about the secret life of Jesus, or the cloak and dagger goings on in the name of the Church.  I’ve read a few good ones myself and yet we should always remember that at the end of the day these are just novels, perhaps founded on a grain of truth, but written so cleverly that some people are duped into believing these so-called secrets.  These authors pass on to their gullible readers their so-called secret knowledge while discrediting Our Lord and the Church and all that they stand for.

You may have heard the little used word Gnostic associated with some of these revelations.  Gnostic means “secret knowledge.”  And Gnostics claim to tell us about secrets that have been deliberately kept from us by conspiratorial Church leaders in order that they might hold power and influence over us.

Efforts to discredit Jesus and his message began immediately after His Resurrection.  When the soldiers guarding Our Lord’s tomb told the chief priests that Our Lord’s body had mysteriously disappeared, they were bribed to tell Pontius Pilate a lie, a lie which persists to this day.

The Apostles didn’t keep Our Lord’s Resurrection a secret.  Rather they proclaimed it everywhere – and at great cost to themselves.  All the Apostles, except Saint John, suffered martyrdom for preaching Christ’s Resurrection.  The early Christians paid dearly for witnessing to the fact of the Resurrection.  Christ’s Resurrection from the dead was no secret; it was a reality to be broadcast.

It’s also important for us to realize that Our Lord waited until after His Resurrection before He opened the minds of His disciples, because they wouldn’t understand what Christ was all about until after His Resurrection.  The story wasn’t complete until His Resurrection took place.  The disciples couldn’t understand the Scriptures until they witnessed the fact that He rose from the dead.  And even then, it wasn’t until Pentecost that their minds were equipped to know Christ with any reasonable degree of understanding.

We too, like the first disciples can’t understand the Scriptures until our minds have been opened by our experience of Christ, and by our faith in His Resurrection.

Something positive always results from the publishing of some of these so-called Gnostic books.  For example Simon Mawer’s book The Gospel of Judas reinforces a central teaching of Christianity: that Our Lord’s death wasn’t a murder and not even a betrayal, but rather the fulfilment of God’s most profound gift to humanity.  Unlike pagan sacrifices, the Paschal Sacrifice wasn’t a gift offered by man to God, but a gift offered by God for man.  The resurrected Christ teaches us that His unique sacrifice results in our freedom and our salvation.  Our freedom and our salvation are not things we have achieved; rather they are gifts God has given us.

Our Lord’s death and Resurrection are central to our religious life and our understanding of God.  If Christ didn’t rise from the dead then we might just as well follow any religious figure that takes our fancy.  We might just as well invent our own religion, as so many have done.

Our belief in the fact that Jesus rose from the dead changes everything.  It presents us with our final destiny.  It tells us just how much God loves us, and it shows us just how far God will go to release us from human folly and free us from evil’s grip.

During this Easter season we proclaim that Jesus Christ is raised from the dead – let us rejoice and be glad.

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