As Catholics we are asked to believe in a number of things that have been revealed by God, and which are proposed for our belief by His Church. Of all these beliefs, two seem to me to be of special difficulty -- more difficult for a new believer to accept than all of our Lord's other miracles and divine attributes. The first of these difficult doctrines would be the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The Jews who heard Him promise that "the bread He would give is His flesh for the life of the world"1 proposed a very reasonable question when they asked, "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?" We will talk more about the Real Presence at another time; perhaps when It is mentioned in one of the Sunday or feast day Gospels; perhaps at Corpus Christi or the Fourth Sunday of Lent. Today, the Church asks us to consider the other difficult article of our Faith, the Resurrection of our Lord from the Dead.
The Scriptures record that on at least three occasions our Lord brought back people from the dead. A few Sundays ago we heard about the raising of the son of the widow at Naim; during Lent and at some funeral Masses, we hear about Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary of Bethany; and today, we hear about the resurrection of a twelve year old young woman, the daughter of Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue.2
It would seem that our Lord performed these three miracles -- and the Evangelists wrote them down in their Gospels -- first of all, to demonstrate the possibility of His own Resurrection. All three were done in the plain sight of witnesses. In all three cases it was clear to the witnesses that the deceased was truly dead -- in today's account the crowd of mourners had already arrived, accompanied by the customary flute players -- clearly some time had passed since the girl's death. The crowd we are told "laughed Jesus to scorn" at the idea that she might not be dead. At Naim, they were carrying out the dead son to bury him. And, of course, Lazarus had already spent four days in the tomb by the time our Lord got to him.
These three miracles, then, are proposed to us so that we might have faith. Our Lord knew that in the future some of the Pharisees and the chief Priests of the Temple would accuse Him of being a "deceiver" and would even bribe the soldiers at the tomb to say "His disciples came by and stole His body while we were sleeping."3 Our Lord knew that centuries later the disciples of Mohammed would do much the same thing, claiming that He had not really died on the cross, but that Allah had snatched Him out of the grip of the Jews.4 The Jews, the Moslems, and countless others would deny that our Lord died for our sins, and even more categorically they would deny that He raised Himself up from the dead on the third day.
But here, in public, before many witnesses, we see our Lord demonstrate his power over death. Together with this testimony -- and the testimony of those who saw Him die on the cross and saw Him placed in the tomb -- and together with the testimony of those who later saw Him alive for forty days -- it becomes a lot easier for us to believe in His Resurrection. God has arranged to strengthen our faith through the testimony of those who saw these things. "Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed."5 All of these things are for our faith.
In Saint Luke's Gospel, while on the way, our Lord told Jairus, "Do not be afraid; only have faith and she shall be saved. Faith, you see, leads to hope. Losing a child has to be the worst nightmare of any parent. Jairus had just lost his twelve year old little girl. But Jairus had hope, precisely because he believed in our Lord's abilities and willingness to save her -- think about that for a moment -- why else would a man run off from the bedside of his dying daughter, leaving his wife and his family at such a time, unless he truly believed that Jesus could and would help? Because of his faith in Jesus, Jairus also had the virtue of hope.
The various accounts of resurrections, and the account of our Lord's own Resurrection are proposed to us to that, just like Jairus, we too may have hope -- that we may have hope of some day rejoiining those loved ones who otherwise would seem gone forever -- that we may have hope of our own future resurrection in the joy of heaven. These thing are proposed to us to make it a little easier to accept what our Lord told that crowd who questioned His ability to give us His flesh to eat: "He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has life everlasting, and I will raise Him up on the last day."6 All of these things are for our hope.
There is yet another common thread that runs through all of these miracles. It is always tempting to think that our Lord worked His miracles to demonstrate His power and His divinity -- and, of course, to some extent He did. But perhaps more to the point, our Lord worked His miracles, and did virtually everything that He did on earth, out of charity -- that pure, unselfish love of God for His creatures, which we are expected not only to return to God, but also to share with our neighbors for the love of God. Jesus had compassion on Jairus, and on the widow at Naim, and on Martha and Mary of Bethany, and on every person whom he healed -- but even that compassion pales when compared with the compassion He must have felt, that compelled Him to become one of us and to die for our sins on the Cross. All of these things are for our charity.
The ever practical Saint Paul -- who spoke so eloquently about faith, hope, and charity to the Corinthians -- suggests one more thing to us today: it is for us imitate Saint Paul, and ultimately to imitate our Lord Himself, removing ourselves from earthly attachments and directing our attentions and our actions toward our "citizenship in heaven" -- otherwise, we make ourselves "enemies of the Cross of Christ."7 It is not a coincidence that Paul tells us that "Jesus Christ ... will refashion the body of our lowliness, conforming it to the body of His glory...." Paul is talking about our own resurrection.
We know that on the last day all will rise "in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet" -- but we also know that "those who have done good shall come forth unto resurrection of life; but those who have done evil unto resurrection of judgement."8 Saint Paul is admonishing us today, not to be enemies, but to be the allies of Christ on the Cross.
"The hope of a blessed resurrection has shone upon us, that we, afflicted by the certainty of death, may be consoled by the promise of future immortality."9 All of these things are for our faith, for our hope, and for our charity; and ultimately, they are for our salvation.