I enjoyed reading Bishop Tobin's Without a Doubt article titled 'Breaking News: The Tomb of Jesus is Empty!' in the March 15 edition of The Providence Visitor. The bishop eloquently expresses the Church's teaching of the greatest miracle of all time, the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. The faith-filled among us concur with the bishop as he quotes St. Paul, "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain."
However, unlike the bishop, I was not surprised to hear that a theologian at a prominent Catholic university was quoted as saying something to the effect that the discovery of the body of Jesus would not shake his faith. Like the bishop, though, I do indeed worry about what he's teaching in the classroom.
Oftentimes during the Lenten season a major periodical such as Newsweek or Time publishes an article about a group that calls itself the Jesus Seminar. This group, composed of theologians, has voted with colored beads the probability that events in the Gospels are either fact or fiction. The various colored beads indicate whether an event was most certainly likely, possibly likely, possibly unlikely, or most certainly unlikely. A favorite target of the Jesus Seminar is to discredit the miracles of the Gospels or to apply a revisionist and "enlightened" interpretation to the miracles. In our own diocese I have learned to approach with a certain amount of trepidation the Sunday in August when we read St. John's Gospel describing the miracle of the loaves and fishes. On more than one occasion by more than one preacher I've heard said that the real miracle had nothing to do with a miraculous multiplication of food. But rather the true miracle was Christ's convincing those with means to make some small provision for the poor. (Lest Bishop Tobin worry, my own pastor is true to the classic interpretation.)
Do we need to believe in the miracles of Jesus as described in the Gospels? Jesus himself admonished the Pharisees for their needing to see signs and miracles (Mark 8:11-13). In spite of this admonition, Jesus knew also that our faith is weak. He chose miracles to bolster this poor faith. Which of these is easier to say, "Arise and walk," or "Your sins are forgiven"?
Which is easier to proudly exalt, "Lazarus come forth!" or "The Tomb of Jesus is Empty"?
(This letter originally appeared in The Providence Journal)