The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is everything. Without the supernatural act of the Resurrection, Christianity simply makes no sense. All of our rituals, doctrines and traditions have no reference point if not understood within the context of the Resurrection. Death and sin have been overcome by this supernatural act of God, and nothing will ever be the same. It becomes clear that God’s love and mercy and desire for all to participate in His divine life is the destiny for which we were made. As St. Paul testified in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain.”
In our overly rationalistic world, believing in the supernatural reality of things is discouraged. The antidote to this way of thinking is our Christian witness, which orients our hearts, our minds and our senses to a reality to the supernatural order. Far from being empty rituals, the Sacraments are meant precisely to open us to the supernatural world for which we were made. Every time we have the occasion to witness a child being baptized, a man and woman being married, a young man being ordained, a priest consecrate the Eucharist, or loved one receiving the anointing at the end of life, through an assent of faith, our minds and hearts to this supernatural reality of heaven’s opening, and God’s divine life being shared.
This “resurrection-inspired” understanding of life should guide our relationships as well. We should certainly guard against spiritualizing the Resurrection of Jesus so as not to rob it of its meaning. For every difference we might have with our neighbor, every division we experience, every grudge we may hold, or any slight we find unable to forgive, we should aspire to see the other person through the supernatural power of the Resurrection. If God can raise His Son from the dead, surely He can provide me the grace to forgive the relatively trivial trespasses I have experienced! If we see ourselves, our family, our neighbors and even our enemies through the lens of the Resurrection, we should see the divine destiny promised us, and the utter pettiness and futility of our disputes.
Notice what did not happen when Jesus was raised from the dead. Jesus does seek vengeance and seek to smite his enemies who had just recently so cruelly and unjustifiably killed him. Would that not be our instinct if faced with such an abominable crime against a loved one? And yet, everything Jesus does and says upon His Resurrection points to a different supernatural reality of love and mercy and forgiveness. Jesus demonstrates compassion and support for his Apostles in the Upper Room, at the seashore and on the road to Emmaus. Rather than demonstrating how to be powerful, strategic or manipulative, He teaches them how to feed, care for and tend to the flock that He knew they would gather. The resurrected Lord does not serve as a model of retribution, but rather as one of forgiveness as He sends His disciples out into the world to make disciples of all nations. He serves as a model of friendship by providing the sustenance required for the journey ahead through the Eucharist, and His Holy Spirit.
I had a pastor once who said that the divisions in the church really are not those among liberals and conservatives, but rather between those who believe in the supernatural and those who do not. If we focus on the supernatural reality of the Resurrection and the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, the divisions that continue to roil our Church will fade into perspective. With greater unity, we will better serve our supernatural mission to bring Christ’s salvation to the world and restore the natural order to its original purpose.
Anchor columnist Peter Shaughnessy is president/principal of Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth. He resides in Fairhaven with his wife, Anabela Vasconcelos Shaughnessy (Class of ’94), and their four children: Luke (Class of ’24), Emilia (Class of ’25), Dominic (Class of ’27) and Clare (Class of ’30).