Smoky Mountains Sunrise

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Father Rutler: Surprising Events

Father George W. Rutler
Clichés should not be ignored just because they are clichés. Facile repetition of what is true does not make it false. Of course, it can be annoying to hear a phrase repeated often without giving it much thought. Some expressions are not false simply because they lack originality. There are many invented lies, but there is no truth that has not always been true.
   Only a dull mind would be annoyed by the truism that “Life is full of surprises.” Our first surprise happened when we were born and realized that there is a world outside the womb. The most stunning surprise in history, literally earth-shaking, was the Resurrection of Christ. No one expected it, and those few who recalled Christ’s prediction, denied it: “Now, on the next day, which is the one after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember that when he was still alive that deceiver said, “After three days I will rise again.” ’ ” (Matthew 27:62 ff). Not to risk the chance of a hoax, they arranged for the tomb to be guarded.
   The closest disciples did not understand that Jesus really meant what he said, beyond metaphor. Even in the afterglow of the Transfiguration, three of the apostles seem to have dismissed his prediction of death and resurrection as a pious cliché. There was even a subtle humor in the way the Lord surprised them: the way the Magdalen at first thought the distant figure was a gardener, and the way young John dropped for a moment his self-effacing humility by mentioning that he outran Peter to the tomb, and Jesus’ conversation with the two men on the Emmaus road almost like an elegant tease at first, and the food he ate in the Upper Room to prove he was not a ghost, and his commanding serenity when he showed Thomas the wounds.
The element of surprise affirms the integrity of an event. The Risen Lord said to Cleopas and his companion: "How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25). That is the one instance when he called anyone a fool. At first it would seem to contradict his command not to insult people by calling them “raqa” which means empty-headed. But here, in the glory of the Resurrection, there is no malice attached to what he says. There is only what some have called a gracious mirth.
   If life is so full of surprises that we are no longer surprised by them, the solution is to recall that for forty days after the Lord rose from the dead, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Father George W. Rutler

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