The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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April 13, 2001 Issue
Fr. Ver Bust's Column:
"Explaining the Gospel"

Fr. Richard Ver Bust
Fr. Richard Ver Bust

The wonders of the newness of life

The disciples struggled to understand the mystery of the resurrection


By Fr. Richard Ver Bust

Our responsorial psalm sings of God's power and victory. It celebrates God's mercy. It is a wonderful day, the climax of the days we have been celebrating. The feast of Easter is the highlight of our liturgical year. Romantically we pay more attention to Christmas but when it comes to what it means to be a Christian we realize that it is in Christ's rising from the dead that we have come to the beginning of the story of our faith.

Each of the gospels tells of how Jesus' disciples came to know that he had risen. The disciples struggle to appreciate what had happened. While they probably all believed that there would be a resurrection from the dead at the end of time, suddenly they faced the fact that one person had risen from the dead now. They searched to find ways of expressing what they had seen. The resurrection stories confirm how they had been changed.

John tells us that Mary Magdalene went to visit the tomb early in the morning of the first day of the week. It was still dark. She saw that the stone, which covered the tomb, had been moved. She probably thought someone had removed the body so she ran off to tell the other disciples. She gives no indication that she thought of Jesus' resurrection.

Peter is the leader of the disciples and we are told that he and an unnamed disciple received the news. Who this other disciple is we do not know for certain. It could be John but it also could be simply the person known as the beloved disciple and not one of the twelve. They both ran to the tomb. When the other disciple arrived first he waited for Peter to enter first. There they found the burial wrappings. When Lazarus had come out of the tomb he was wearing these kinds of wrappings. Theologically the fact that the wrappings remained might indicate that Jesus in his resurrected body no longer had need for them. Unlike Lazarus he has risen to a new life while Lazarus must live and die again.

We do not know what Peter thought but we are told that the other disciple saw all this and believed. He seems to have been alone among the disciples to accept what faith told him God had done. Jesus probably had told them that God would vindicate him and his ministry. The disciples most likely did not understand. But now they had to face what seemed to be a deep mystery. They would realize that God had this wonderful plan to save them and that all of salvation history had been for this moment.

The other readings all underline the wonders of this event. Each shows how this mystery still touches our lives. During the succeeding years the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul all sought to explain the unexplainable. God had brought a new type of life into focus and Jesus was the first to experience it. If we still struggle to understand the reality of the resurrection it is because resurrection from the dead is beyond our limited human experiences. What words do we use to share this belief? All of what we say barely touches the wonders of what God has done.

Newness of life and a new life are our feeble ways of expressing it. Since we are experiencing spring in our part of the world maybe we can perceive something of the wonders of what new life in the Lord is about.

(Fr. Ver Bust holds the title of professor emeritus in religious studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)

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