Charles Colson, former White House counsel for President Nixon, who was best known as the mastermind of many political dirty tricks in the Nixon administration said this about the Resurrection after he had a Christian conversion while serving time in federal prison,
“I know the Resurrection is fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Everyone was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”
The glory of the Resurrection is that once Jesus defeated death, His believers knew beyond a doubt that life on earth is simply a temporary existence. This understanding is what gave the apostles such incredible courage and conviction even when faced with great adversity including devastating physical pain and ultimate death. Faith in the Resurrection is also why the church has celebrated and canonized many martyrs throughout its 2000-year history. The martyrs knew that they could freely give up their transient earthly lives in the service of Christ as the promise of eternal life with God would be one day be theirs. The martyrs were not only filled with religious zeal but also sound judgement as this is not a bad deal in the long run – a few years of pain and suffering on earth vs. eternal bliss in heaven.
While no one actively wishes to die prematurely, the pandemic has shown a bright light on how so many people, even purportedly devout lay Christians and clergy, were willing to do almost anything to retain their earthly existence. Some of these measures included closing houses of worship for the first time in history, isolating for months from family and friends, wearing face cloths and plastic shields, accepting the injection of an experimental gene serum, forcing others to take said serum, and living in fear everyday of a virus that has, for the most part, an excellent recovery rate given adequate and appropriate health care.
The fear of sickness and death turned otherwise rational people into maniacs as they hunted down strangers in the grocery store who were not wearing a mask or social distancing. Corporations and hospitals fired able bodied workers in a labor shortage who refused to be vaccinated. Children were forced to languish at home as educators who are always telling us, “It’s all about the children,” were too afraid to meet with them in person. Bishops and priests closed churches when the faithful needed the sacraments the most.
Just as a majority of Catholics (a whopping 69%) have lost faith in the real presence of Jesus’ body, soul and divinity in the Eucharist, it seems obvious that many also no longer have faith in the Resurrection – hence the great fear of death and dying these past two years. People who believe in the Resurrection do not live in fear but in hope, that the trials and tribulations they face are merely a blip on the radar compared to the glorious existence that is to come for those who love Him. 1 Corinthians 2:9 tells us, “Eye has not seen nor ear has heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
People without faith in the Resurrection have an emptiness inside and also develop a drive to experience every earthly pleasure imaginably because as far as they are concerned when they die it’s all over. It’s a kind of “get what you can, while you can” mentality. Complete happiness on earth is now the supreme goal. This is not what the Baltimore Catechism used to teach us. Lesson 1-4 states, “To gain the happiness of heaven, we must know, love and serve God in this world.” Unfortunately, too many are knowing, loving and serving themselves in this world instead of setting their sights on heaven. No wonder, especially among the young, the cases of anxiety and depression have risen at alarming rates.
In this Octave of Easter recommit yourself to rekindle the faith you had as a child in the miracle of the empty tomb. Recall the eye witness testimony of the apostles and their steadfast and unshakable adherence to the truth that Jesus has truly risen from the dead. Don’t be a doubting Thomas anymore, but believe.
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. John 20:27
Editor’s note: After his conversion Charles Colson spent the rest of his life ministering the Gospel to prisoners and founded the organization called Prison Fellowship Ministries.