Fr. Glenn: An Unfinished Journey
A very blessed and happy Easter to all as we Christians celebrate the (literal, not figurative) resurrection of Jesus from death 2000 years ago. This is one of the absolutely central tenets of the Christian faith. For those unfamiliar with Christianity, know that we believe that Jesus died by crucifixion to take upon us the punishment each person rightly deserves in justice for personal wrongs against God and other people. He resurrected as the “first-born from the dead” in order to, at some undetermined time in the future, bring all persons back from the dead in God’s final judgment of the world. Details vary among denominations.
Why do the vast majority of Christians believe in these seemingly fantastic claims ... not only of a dead man coming back to life, but he also being God? Is it naiveté? Mass delusion? Wishful thinking? Reticence to doubt/violate family tradition? After all, from outside it seems most unlikely.
Being of analytical bent, I wondered about all this even in my teen years. Was I being duped ... even unknowingly, and with best intentions? Certainly community worship can make one “feel” good, but was it true, or was it just psychological manipulation? So it seemed wise to investigate its claims ... especially with the disposition of my immortal soul possibly riding on it.
I can only relay my own reasoning process, of course, but first and undeniable was the prevalence of the Christian faith—after 2000 years having approximately two billion adherents—despite wars, scandals, persecutions, internal corruptions, etc. Empires and nations rise and fall, yet Christianity grows ever larger. All this from unlearned rough uneducated fishermen, despised tax collectors, and others of no account who initially spread this religion—professed disciples of an uneducated manual laborer from a despised village in a conquered vassal region of the Roman Empire.
Those “apostles” were hard-bitten working men wary of deception, but even after having accompanied Jesus for years, claimed he had manifested supernatural abilities of healing, exorcism, raising the dead, and even his resurrection, which they claimed to have witnessed—while they suffered persecution for decades, and eventually agonized martyrdoms, for doing so. Few persons would suffer so for a lie. Even the new religion’s chief persecutor (Paul) testified in his own letters—still extant—to turning immediately to its strongest advocate after a supernatural experience.
Other things? The longevity of Christianity’s “elder brother”—Judaism ... again despite wars, persecution, exile and holocaust. Philosophical reasons promulgated over the centuries for the necessity of God—the necessary self-existent being from which all other existence emanates—trying to answer the perennial question: Whence come ANY existence whatever? Biblical prophecies apparently fulfilled centuries after they were penned. Occurrences/events (very often healings), which defy all explanation even in our scientific age—such things as stage 4 cancers disappearing and the like. The Catholic Church contracts doctors and scientists to actively try to discount, if possible, such claimed “miracles”, and yet many cannot be disproven.
I remember one retired LANL physicist who spoke open-mindedly about his investigation of the claims of the Shroud of Turin, and admitted that he could not find a rational explanation for its investigated properties, and it had moved him from atheistic leanings toward Christianity. And some persons also point to the delicate balance of physical constants upon which depends our material being—constants which, if their values varied only slightly, would make life and, some argue, even coherent matter, impossible.
As I mused on all these things—and more—it seemed highly unlikely that all these things could be the tailoring of some vast conspiracy to lead so many people astray. One might explain away some, but not all. As I have aged, faith has become ever stronger, until I now have no doubt whatever of the truth of it. I know that my own journey of faith may not sway one who does not believe, but ... maybe it will, at least a bit, get him to pondering, and perhaps set out on a journey of discovery of his own. But, believer or not, allow me the privilege of asking blessings upon you and your families on this holiest and most cherished day of our Christian faith.