B. Reflection and Dialogue: The Risen Christ Centre of Christian life. Christian witness
In the first reading Peter stresses that the apostles are attested witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection, with the task of proclaiming to all what Jesus’ saving mission meant. The message of the second reading is that all followers of Christ should be witnesses to the new life in Christ in a world that often has a contrary message. There is fruit for reflection in this for us today.
Belief in the resurrection of Christ and of Christ at God’s right hand is, in a sense, revolutionary. It calls for Christian living and Christian witness in an indifferent or unbelieving world. By union with Christ in baptism Christians in a sense have died to one form of living, and now have a new life, in the words of today’s reading “hidden with Christ in God”. This is not a life of detachment from the world or human society, no more than Christ’s life in God is. As Pope Francis reminded us early in is pontificate, the centre of the Church is Christ, not the Pope. Without awareness of Christ as head and centre of the Church, Christian life is disoriented. The risen Christ, now in glory, is the same Christ who has given us the Beatitudes, and other teaching. He is the Christ who has sent his Spirit on the Church and has directed it confidently in the mission to pagans beyond Judaism, countering unacceptable pagan beliefs and practices. Hence it is that in this same letter, immediately after today’s reading, the implications of belief in the Easter Jesus are spelt out. Paul’s words merit citation in full. He first spells out five prevailing practices, unacceptable to believers in Christ, common in the society in which Colossian Christians found themselves. Paul’s words are (Colossians 3:5-8): “Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which are idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things”. He then adds other qualities which should characterize Christian society. They should put away anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from their mouth, and many others besides.
The Church in Ireland is now at a turning point. There have been the clerical, and other, sex scandals, and independent of this a falling away from Church attendance, not necessarily a lack of faith. There is also a growing, and vocal, secularism and anti-clericalism. Believers need to put faith in the Risen Christ, as presented in today’s reading from Colossians, at the very centre of their religion. Presence at Easter ceremonies could be a call and a reminder from Christ that all who believe in him are his witnesses, witnesses to his passion and resurrection. We can compare the present situation in Ireland (and also elsewhere) somewhat to that of the disciples during and after the terrible events of the Passion and death of Jesus. The hopes expressed in him on the entry over the Mount of Olives seemed dashed. In his hour of trouble his disciples had abandoned him; Peter had even denied him three times. The situation changed with the resurrection belief, and the words of Jesus that his death was really a victory. Believers in him could take courage. Through his death and resurrection Christ had conquered “the world”, that is all forces trying to take believers away from him. And his followers would be witnesses to this new age. As Jesus said (John 15:26-27): “When the Advocate (Paraclete, Comforter) comes, whom I send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.”