There have been many excellent comments and analyses of Pope Benedict’s new book, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week since its launch by the CTS, but I would like to share with you how the Holy Father’s book has affected me on a personal level, at the level of my personal faith.
Just before Christmas 2010 our second baby, Ariel, died at eight weeks’ gestation. And just three weeks ago we received news that one of my young cousins has tragically died.
“A ray of light”
So it is in a state of deep grief, sometimes despair, that I have been reading Pope Benedict’s book, Jesus of Nazareth. The darkness and horror of death are very real at present, leaving me with the perennial but very personal questions, ‘Is there really eternal life after death, or only annihilation?’, ‘Did Jesus really rise from the dead on the third day or is my hope illusory?’
Pope Benedict’s chapter, Jesus’ Resurrection from the Dead, has been a ray of light in the darkness, renewing my hope that faith in eternal life is grounded in the real event of Jesus’ resurrection on the first Easter Sunday in Jerusalem.
Celebrating the Risen Lord
In particular the Holy Father’s reflection on the significance of the early Christian community abandoning the Jewish Sabbath to celebrate the resurrection on the first day of the week brought home to me in a powerful way the historical reality of Jesus’ defeat of death:
“If we bear in mind the immense importance attached to the Sabbath in the Old Testament tradition on the basis of the Creation account and the Decalogue, then it is clear that only an event of extraordinary impact could have led to the abandonment of the Sabbath and its replacement by the first day of the week.
“Only an event that marked souls indelibly could bring about such a profound realignment in the religious culture of the week. Mere theological speculations could not have achieved this. For me, the celebration of the Lord’s day, which was a characteristic part of the Christian community from the outset, is one of the most convincing proofs that something extraordinary happened that day—the discovery of the empty tomb and the encounter with the risen Lord.” (p. 259).
Pope Benedict’s gift is to take something that is so familiar to us, like the shift from the Sabbath to Sunday, and revealing to us the profound significance of aspects of our Christian life that we take for granted.
I am still grieving, but during the bad times I keep reading this paragraph from Jesus of Nazareth in order to remember that there is real hope that I will be re-united with my children Gabriel and Ariel, and that my cousin Sarah is safe in the love of our Risen Lord.
Deacon Nick Donnelly
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