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The smallest mustard seed of history

· Resurrection and the Christian faith ·

"The Christian faith,” writes Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth , “stands or falls with the truth of testimony that Christ is risen from the dead. If this were taken away, it would still be possible to piece together from the Christian tradition a series of interesting ideas about God and men, about man's being and his obligations, a kind of religious view: but the Christian faith itself would be dead." The Christian message would be totally abandoned to our subjective interpretation and would be valid only in so far as it convinces us. That is what it has been reduced to today, by secular people as well as by Christians, who want to conform it to the demands of reason and in reality strain to reduce it to the measure of human reason.

But only if Jesus is resurrected, “has anything really new occurred that changes the world and the situation of mankind." In fact, the resurrection of Jesus is not just a miracle of a re-animated corpse, such as happened in the resurrection at Nain, or with the Jairus’ daughter or with Lazarus: this would interest us only to a certain point. The resurrection of Jesus – according to New Testament witness – was instead “a break-through to a totally new type of life, towards a life no longer subject to the law of death and of becoming, but placed beyond that – a life which inaugurated a new dimension of being man.” It is not, therefore, a fact which belongs only to the past: it is a decisive change, a leap in the state and quality of the human. “In the resurrection of Jesus, a new possibility of being man was reached, a possibility which involves everyone and opens…a new type of future for mankind.” It is an event which fills the life of man with significance, and begins a presence in which existence begins to have its fulfillment, even if this presence “in the midst of the continuing old world was not foreseen and therefore at first made no sense.” This explains the initial difficulty of the disciples in understanding the event. Finally, however, they were overcome by reality: “"It is truly he. He is alive; he has spoken to us; he has allowed us to touch him, even if he no longer belongs to the realm of the tangible in the normal way." A completely indisputable experience.

In Cesare Pavese’s Dialogues with Leuco , the old Tiresias teaches a young Oedipus that, “to be blind is not a disgrace different from being alive,” because in the world nothing significant happens, nothing worth seeing, nothing of which one can give the name good or bad. “Everything is a jarring blow, nothing else.”

The resurrection of Jesus happens in the world as an event in which everything else is redeemed from non-sense, and finds substance and hope of salvation. But can it have really been so? Can we moderns give credit to a testimony of this type? Is it not in contrast to science? The Pope’s response turns around these questions: “Can there really only ever be what there has always been? Can there not be something unexpected, something unimaginable, something new?" It is as if it challenges man’s reason to accept the supreme category of thinking, that is, unconditional openness to reality and to every possibility: “"If there really is a God, is he not able to create a new dimension of reality altogether?" The Pope adds, "Is not creation actually waiting for this last and highest 'evolutionary leap', for the union of the finite with the infinite, for the union of man and God, for the conquest of death?"

Only reason which is able to truly open itself – willing to recognize also that which it had not foreseen nor could foresee – does it accomplish its most intimate waiting for an exhaustive meaning of existence. Certainly, the resurrection of Jesus came into the world as something un-flashy: at first look, "it is the smallest mustard seed of history." But it contains within it the infinite potential of God. And one benefits from the convincing force of Christian testimony which, with, “utterly new fearlessness,” repeats itself after 2,000 years: in this, is the dawn of that “definitive and different” human condition, begun in the Resurrected Christ. And in this way, the resurrection of the Lord happens today.




St. Peter’s Square

Jan. 28, 2020