A Homily by Rev. Jonathan Romanoski, FSSP
"And if Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain... for you are yet in your sins."
It has been my great pleasure to be with you since the feast of the Holy Family, which seems but a short time ago in this liturgical year in which we have passed so quickly from Our Lord’s Nativity, to his Passion and Resurrection. But this compact view should help us see the unity of the mystery of God’s plan, as the divine riddle only makes sense when you hear the end of it.
The Word became Flesh and dwelt amongst us. The fullness of Divine Love itself, came down from heaven, in infinite condescension, to dwell among us, as one of us, like to us in all things but sin. In the first beat of His divine heart, he merited enough grace to redeem the world, being as it was an act of infinite love of a divine person. Yet he was not content to rest there. He wanted to teach us the depths of His love, and most importantly how to Love, as He then took us into the desert for forty days, teaching us to renounce the things of this world, that we might gain those of heaven. And He taught us still further in His Passiontide, the true reality of our sin, by which we spit in the face, crown with thorns, and nail to the cross, Love and Goodness Himself. Yet while we, not accepting his incarnation, and even killing the Author of Life, merited even greater eternal punishment, He still more greatly condescended in His infinite mercy, immolating the mortal flesh He had assumed as a holocaust of divine charity on the cross, begging our pardon, and making Himself captive once again in our midst, in the Most Holy Eucharist, so as to try yet again in the madness of His Divine Love to unite Himself to us His enemies, whom He now calls His friends.
Dom Gueranger sums this us most admirably as he writes, “Everything, both in the order of time and in the workings of the Liturgy, has been a preparation for Easter. The four thousand years that followed the promise made by God to our first parents were crowned by the event that we are now to celebrate... The angels themselves are dazzled by the grand Mystery, as the Church tells us in one of her Easter hymns, where she says: ‘The angels gaze with wonder on the change wrought in mankind: it was flesh that sinned, and now Flesh taketh all sin away, and the God that reigns is the God made Flesh’.”
For today we receive the tangible proof of all that God has revealed and done; that our sins are taken away; and that Christ who was thought unable to save Himself, by His death has conquered death. For Christ has risen, alleluia. Christ has truly risen, alleluia. The Resurrection is the mystery of our Faith, as it is the tangible miracle of miracles, which confirms with certainty all that Christ did and taught; the chief miracle manifesting His divinity, who declared, “I AM the resurrection and the life.”
And so it is the chief miracle, which the world will war against. Let us review their plan of attack, that we may always be ready with a reason for the hope that is within us. They begin against the reliability of the documents which describe the events themselves, the historically inerrant Sacred Scriptures, which any honest historian would have to admit on purely secular grounds are the most reliable documents of any ancient historical account that civilization has, as they are far, far more numerous in manuscript copies, perfectly in accordance with each other in what they teach, and far more ancient in extant manuscripts than any other ancient history. They were attested to by the pagans of their day and most of all by those who shed their blood for what they saw, with no hope of gain in this life, as they were the most miserable of all men, if in this life only, they had hope in Christ, says St. Paul, as there was no earthly gain to be had, and if it were for eternal retribution in the next life, they never would have lied. Which documents as well have so many hard sayings--foolishness to the gentiles, and stumbling blocks to the Jews, and so many shameful facts about their human authors, who abandoned their Lord, and never understood what he was saying. As even Rousseau, that great enemy of the faith, said, “My friend, something made up does not sound like this.”
Yet the enemy does not stop here, as they are not really interested in reason anyway. And so they proceed with their “enlightened” theories about what really happened, thousands of years removed from the fact, asserting that the apostles merely hallucinated out of their exceeding hope to see the Lord resurrected. Yet what do we read? That to the contrary they were not exceedingly credulous, but rather had given up hope, and would not believe St. Mary Magdalene, nor would St. Thomas believe the other apostles until he had placed his hands in Our Lords sacred wounds. And these appearances lasted not for a moment but for forty days straight, in which our Lord spoke and ate with them. And not only did the incredulous apostles and “doubting Thomas” see him, but five-hundred eye witnesses saw him as well, whose testimony was not called into doubt.
All right, so much for that one, let’s try brilliant idea #2- there was an earthquake, and Our Lord’s body fell into the earth and disappeared. Just one little problem- the linen cloths with which his body was wrapped, and his burial shroud, which we still have today, were left behind, neatly arranged. Now, people don’t usually fall through their clothes, do they?
All right, one more, straight from the Pharisees’ playbook. The Pharisees you will recall, giving testimony to the fact that our Lord prophesied his resurrection, became exceedingly afraid that it would come true, and so begged Pilate, to guard the tomb under the Roman seal with soldiers. These were soldiers of the greatest army on the planet, who were defending the seal of Rome itself. If this seal were broken they would have probably been burned alive for betraying it, and those who broke it crucified upside down. The rock placed over it would have weighed about three to four thousand pounds. So against all this we are supposed to believe, (I’m sorry, “rationally deduce”) that twelve incredulous cowards, charged these trained soldiers, or bribed them with fishes or riches that they didn’t have, in exchange for risking their lives and the honor of Rome, and then proceeded to roll away a two-ton stone so that they could hide their dead founder, who was thus proved to have been a liar and a fake, so that they could in turn go about preaching a lie which would be quite ridiculous in content to both Jews and Greeks, living a life of suffering and persecution, without any earthly gain, so as to gain eternal life, which they now knew didn’t exist. Behold the faith of the rationalists so contrary to reason! It takes much less faith to simply acknowledge the fact of the resurrection. No one believed this ludicrous account of the Pharisees either, as the best the enemies could come up with was to say that the soldiers fell asleep, and then the disciples stole the body somehow. As St. Augustine famously quipped, “Sleeping witnesses, you adduce: truly you yourself have fallen asleep.”
Any reasonable man who studies the issue would conclude as Simon Greenleaf, a professor of Law at Harvard, who wrote one of the most authoritative works on the nature of legal evidence ever produced, concluded after scrutinizing the claims of the four Evangelists, that namely, they pass the test of all legal standards with flying colors. And who could believe the contrary, as Dante wrote, “That all the world, said I, should have been turned to Christian, and no miracle been wrought, would in itself be such a miracle, the rest were not an hundredth part so great.”
Why do we review these proofs this morning? Because defending our faith is part of being holy, as St. Peter says, “sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you.” And as St. Pius X said, “We are forced to agree with those who hold that the chief cause of the present indifference and, as it were, infirmity of soul, and the serious evils that result from it, is to be found above all in ignorance of things divine.” And the modernists continue to attack with still greater fury our faith from every side. And what is worse, they have poisoned the well itself, shaking the confidence of Catholics in what Vatican I defined are the most certain proofs of divine revelation- miracles and prophecies, in exchange for mere persuasions based on the fulfillment of human hope, with no basis in fact, which is how people think of religion today, who speak of it in a context of nothing more than mere belief, a strong opinion, or just fantasies of the imagination. Such is not the Catholic faith. Our faith is based on facts--et Verbum caro factum est. The Word who became flesh, taught in the flesh, died in the flesh, and rose in the flesh. As the beloved disciple who leaned on our Lord’s breast, stood at Calvary and then beheld the empty tomb wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life. For the life was manifested; ...and hath appeared to us: That which we have seen and have heard, we declare unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship may be with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you, that you may rejoice, and your joy may be full.”
Rejoice and be glad O Virgin Mary, Alleluia: for the Lord hath truly risen, Alleluia.