Thursday, September 16, 2010

Memorial of Saints Cornelius, pope, and Cyprian, bishop and martyr

(I Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 7:36-50)

Albert Camus, the twentieth century French existentialist, wrote in The Myth of Sisyphus that suicide is the most important philosophical question. First and foremost, he opined, one should decide whether life is worth living before bothering to think about any other thing. In a similar vein, it might be said that the most important religious question for us Christians is whether Jesus rose from the dead. We might suspend every other article of faith until we address that issue.

In the first reading today Paul faces the question head-on. He tells us not just that Christian witnesses have testified to Jesus’ resurrection since it presumably happened, but also that he personally, and quite unlikely, saw the risen Christ. He admits that the vision was a special grace and that it completely turned around his life.

Reading the letters of St. Paul, we feel like he is a contemporary. There is no stiltedness to his words or lack of sensibility in what he says. Rather, he writes as honestly and passionately as Rachel Carson in The Silent Spring or John Steinbeck in Travels with Charlie. The witness of these letters, confirmed by Paul’s enduring multiple hardships to proclaim it to others, reassures us that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is no fiction. He rose to give us, like he gave Paul, the grace to conquer sin in our lives and to survive the death that is to come.