By Bishop David McGough
Wc long to know how a story will end, especially when that story is our own. We will go to almost any length to secure the future, to ensure that life's conclusion is joy rather than the grief and disappointment that we fear. Reality disrupts the happy ending that we would write for ourselves. We know that we live in a sinful world, that death and decline are the natural outcome of what sin has worked in us.
The Resurrection gathers together human history and brings our story to a conclusion far beyond our most optimistic expectations. The disciples who had encountered their Lord on the road to Emmaus reported their story with great enthusiasm. At first their eyes had been closed: they had been unable to see beyond the disappointment of their hopes. For them, the last chapter had been written with the death of Jesus. Patiently the Risen Lord had taken them through the Law and the prophets, the record of their past. At the breaking of bread their eyes had been opened; they had begun to understand that Christ's resurrection had rewritten their story.
Even as they had discussed this among themselves Christ had shown himself to them. He had invited them to touch him, had eaten in their presence. This gesture of reassurance did more than banish their fear of a ghost. By feel and touch the Risen Lord had reaffirmed his fellowshii2 with the disciples. He was indeed flesh and blood with them. His broken body, raised to new life, embraced and transformed their disappointed hope. He had rewritten the ending to which they had resigned themselves. "This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in
the prophets and in the psalms, has to be fulfilled."
Peter proclaimed this same hope to the people of Jerusalem. Characteristically his proclamation of the Good News began with Israel's long history.. This history had been a story of grace offered and rejected. It had seemed to reach its conclusion when the people had chosen a murderer rather than Jesus, death rather than life. We cannot distance ourselves from Peter's summary of Israel's seemingly perverse history. The more we come to understand the choices that have formed our own lives, the more we understand that we have chosen ourselves rather than the Christ, have chosen dark ness rather than light. Peter recalled the history of his people so as to rekindle hope. The truthful telling of selfish lives gives little ground for hope. We feel trapped by what we have done and what we have become. In his death and resurrection Christ embraced what sinful humanity had become. He offers a new beginning that is based on his power to save rather than our strength to live virtuous lives. We can truly begin to believe that his resurrection is indeed the joyful ending of our own story.
The first Letter of St John grounds our hope in the resurrection. The sinful impulses that once dictated the ending of our lives no longer holds us captive. Christ is our advocate with the Father, his resurrection the strength at the heart of our vulnerability. When we remain close to the Risen Lord, God's love comes to perfection within us.