By Canon Gerry Conroy
On the odd occasion, I feel sorry for the government trying to deal with this pandemic. There are so many things they have to take account of in their decisions. They have opted to put health as their main priority. I suppose in every decision in life we have to factor in a lot of considerations and make a choice about what is important; it’s just that usually the choices don’t seem as critical, and getting it wrong doesn’t usually have drastic consequences. That is life: we are all different and we approach the issues in our lives from different perspectives, with different priorities, different histories and even with different understandings of what is at stake.
Given that life is this way, it is no surprise therefore, that in the Gospel the Jews come up to Jesus and ask him for some sign to legitimise what he has done in his assault on the temple. What is surprising is the sign that Jesus offers. He does not quote scripture at them, as he might have done, as indeed the evangelist does to give legitimacy to what must have seemed verging on the blasphemous. No doubt, had he done so, his questioners would have found some other piece of scripture to justify their condemnation of him. We have our different ideas on things, our different interpretations on things and we can usually find something to back them up and justify the positions we take. But Christ doesn’t do this, instead he cryptically refers to the resurrection as the sign to justify his actions. It was hardly something the Jews would understand; it was not something even his disciples understood until after it had taken place. Even then many people refused to accept it had happened; they found other ways to explain the empty tomb, as people still do. St Paul said, the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom; we all look for something that fits in with what we want, with how we understand the world and ourselves. In pointing to the resurrection, Christ gave something that no one was expecting, something no one really understood before it happened and as we see with the Apostles, struggled to understand even after it happened. It was something that didn’t fit in with their experience of life or their understanding of life. The truth of it, however, was something that challenged them to change their understanding of life, challenged them to change their priorities in life.
We make judgments on things on the basis of what we know, on the basis of how we fit things together, our experiences, our values. But here is something outwith our experience, something that challenges our values. Here is something new that God has done and we have to make a choice: either to believe or not to believe. If we believe, then the Resurrection changes everything, or should change everything for us. But we have already accrued so much understanding, so many possessions on the basis of our experience in life and on the basis of our understanding of life. Lent is given to us as a time to look again at the Resurrection and the hope it offers us, the understanding it gives to us about what our life is about and where that life is headed.
Canon Conroy is parish priest of St Patrick’s, Dumbarton