Was the Resurrection of Christ a Sign? ~ Cardinal Newman

Tree TunnelWas the Resurrection the great Sign promised by Jesus?

If it was, one would expect most people to have believed it. And one would expect that Jesus would have appeared to Caiphas, the Sanhedrin and Pilate. But no one actually saw the Resurrection and the Risen Christ only appeared to his disciples.

Mary Magdalene and the other women who went to anoint the body of Jesus found the tomb empty. Jesus had said, that ‘she, who loved much had been forgiven much.’ And Jesus appeared first to her. She believed that it was Jesus who appeared to her and called her by name. Love for Jesus opened the eyes of her soul. She believed that Jesus who had suffered a terrible passion and death, was the one who appeared to her in the Garden. Love nourished her faith. She believed as a response to God’s love.

The Resurrection is the great sign of Christ’s divinity, but no one actually saw the resurrection. It is a hidden sign. They saw Christ after the resurrection. Jesus had foretold that he would rise on the third day. Destroy this temple and I will rebuild in three days.

He had also told his fellow Jews No sign will be given you except for the sign of Jonah.

Blessed Newman explains:

“Now what is remarkable in this passage is this, that our Lord promised a great sign parallel to those wrought by the old prophets; yet instead of being public as theirs was, it was in the event, like Jonah’s, a secret sign. Few saw it; it was to be received by all, but on faith; it was addressed to the humble and lowly. When it took place, and St. Thomas refused to believe without sight, our Lord said to him, “Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed; blessed are they {107} that have not seen, and yet have believed.” The Apostle, perhaps, might have been arguing, “If this be the Lord’s great Sign, surely it is to be seen. What is meant by the resurrection but an evidence which is to be addressed to my senses? I have to believe, and this is to assure my belief.” Yet St. Thomas would have been more blessed, had he believed Christ’s miraculous Presence without seeing it; and our Lord implied that such persons there would be” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, Vol 6).

 The Resurrection was a Great Sign, but it was not evidence in the way that we speak of evidence. St. Paul teaches us that we walk by faith not by sight. The Resurrection, the greatest of miracles, demands like the other miracles of Christ our adherence of faith.

Newman comments on another sign promised by Jesus:

“There was another occasion on which the Jews asked for a sign, and on which our Lord answered by promising one, not to His Apostles only, but in continuance, like the manifestation He speaks of, to all His faithful followers. And it was a sign not more sensible or palpable, not less the object of faith as regards the many, than that sign of His resurrection which He gave once for all. He had just before been feeding five thousand men with five barley loaves and two small fishes; when, not contented with this, the Jews said, “What sign showest Thou, that we may see and believe Thee? What dost Thou work?” and they proceeded to refer to the “sign from heaven,” which Moses had given them. “Our Fathers did eat manna in the desert, as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” It was a little thing, they seemed to say, to multiply bread, but it was a great thing to send down bread from heaven,—a great thing, when the nature of the creature was changed, and men were made to live by the word of the Lord. Was the Son of man able to give them bread such as this? Yes, surely, He had a Sign,—a Sign from heaven, more wonderful, a fearful Sign, surpassing thought and surpassing sight too, addressed to faith only, but not the less true because it was hidden. Moses gave their {111} fathers bread from heaven; they saw it, ate it, and were dead; His sign was greater. He was Himself the Bread from heaven under the Gospel, and the Bread of life.”

Christ gave signs, but the signs were understood by faith. And besides the Resurrection the greatest sign was another hidden sign: The Holy Eucharist.

Often we are without faith like the disciples in the Upper Room. Jesus asks us to have faith, to believe in Him and his promise: that He would rise on the third Day and that He would remain with us the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The Resurrection is a mystery beyond our comprehension yet we know from Scripture that Christ’s risen body is a glorious or spiritual body. St. Luke narrates Our Lord’s appearance to the disciples in the Upper Room: [37] But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. [38] And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? [39] See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” [41] And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” [42] They gave him a piece of broiled fish, [43] and he took it and ate before them. Lk 24

At first the disciples would not believe that it was Jesus. He had to eat fish for them to believe that it was really He. Jesus told them not to be troubled and believe in him. Jesus asked them to believe what He had foretold; He asked the disciples to have faith.

Belief in the Resurrection requires an act of faith. Jesus told the Apostle Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” St. John explains how Thomas was not present on Easter Sunday, and not seeing the Risen Lord did not believe.

The Gospel continues: Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.”[27] Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.” 28] Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” [29] Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

Commenting on this St. Josemaria Escriva writes:

Faith helps us recognize that Christ is God; it shows that he is our saviour; it brings us to identify ourselves with him and to act as he acted. When the risen Christ frees the apostle Thomas from his doubts, showing him his wounds, Jesus exclaims: “Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.” And St Gregory the Great comments that “he is referring in particular to us, for we possess spiritually him whom we have not seen in the body. He is referring to us, provided our behaviour agrees with our faith. A person does not truly believe unless he puts into practice what he believes. That is why St Paul says of those whose faith is limited to words: They profess recognition of God, but in their behaviour they deny him” (Christ is Passing By).

Tell Our Lord that you wish to live by love and faith. Ask him to increase your love and faith in Him: faith as a response to his love and to his promises. The Resurrection is indeed the Great Sign, but it is not evidence; it calls for our faith in Christ.

The Virgin Mary was a woman of faith! She believed her Son would rise on the third day as He had promised. Although she has suffered the bitter pain of his passion she expected his resurrection.

 

 

4 Comment(s)
  • Patty Hoffman Posted April 12, 2015 6:42 am

    I look forward to reading more lovely reflections on Bl. JH Newman

    • Fr. Juan Velez Posted April 12, 2015 8:15 am

      Thank you Patty. Happy Divine Mercy Sunday!

  • Dan Hoffman Posted April 12, 2015 6:46 am

    Our family has a little faith formed within our home that meets every Sunday at dinnertime.
    I am printing this and using it tonight. Thank you, Father Juan!

    Dan H

    • Fr. Juan Velez Posted April 12, 2015 8:15 am

      Dan, what a great idea. Happy Divine Mercy Sunday!

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