THE APOSTLES' EXPERIENCE OF THE RISEN CHRIST IS ENTIRELY CREDIBLE
Pope John Paul II
Angelus Message given 28 April 1996
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. This morning I had the joy of ordaining 38 new priests of the Diocese of Rome. The gift of the Spirit which they have received is the fruit of Easter. And this celebration, in the Easter season, shows dearly how it is precisely the Risen One who conforms to himself the generous young people who respond to his call. He makes them leaders and shepherds of his people, with the specific task of proclaiming and witnessing to his Resurrection with their own life.
This is the mystery on which we are reflecting at our Sunday meetings. The Catechism of the Catholic Church presents the Resurrection of the Lord as "a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified" (n. 639). This refers to the unequivocal testimonies offered by the New Testament.
The first fact recorded by the Gospels is that of the empty tomb. "In itself it is not a direct proof of Resurrection", but nevertheless "its discovery by the disciples was the first step toward recognizing the very fact of the Resurrection" (ibid., 640). All the Gospel accounts insist on this very first, historically sound information. Were it baseless, it would not have been difficult to deny it.
2. Christ's appearances however were the decisive experience. Certainly, a most unique experience, but entirely credible, given the trust which those who were involved deserve. These included not only Peter and the other Apostles, but a large number of disciples, men and women to whom the Risen One appeared in different situations and circumstances, as Paul also testifies (cf. 1 Cor 15:4-8). To exclude all possibility of deceit, one need only consider the holiness of their lives, which for many ended in martyrdom. Moreover, there is nothing to make us think that they fell prey to mystical ecstasy or collective hallucination. Some of them, fishermen from Galilee, were used to very concrete reality, so that when they heard the first news of the Resurrection they reacted with understandable scepticism. The case of Thomas the Apostle was symbolic. Moreover, how can we suppose a facile enthusiasm in men who were disappointed and overwhelmed by the tragic death of their Teacher? Only the evidence of the risen Christ which they perceived with their senses adequately explains how they could commit themselves to so provocative a message, destined to arouse the violent reaction of their enemies. This in fact became quickly apparent, obliging them to sign their faithful witness with their own blood.
3. May the Blessed Virgin, Mother of the risen Lord, sustain our faith as she sustained the apostolic proclamation. She has a very special relationship with the Resurrection event: the Risen One is her son! That body which returns to life in the tomb and is raised to a state of glory is the same one fashioned in her womb. May Mary help the many men and women of our time to be open to this mystery, from which flow life and salvation for the whole world.
Weekly Edition in English
1 May 1996.
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