Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter

“... and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. These are [now] his witnesses before the people.” (Acts 13:31.)

Origen of Alexandria (part 2 of Pope Benedict’s reflections on Origen) comments on this verse from the Reading proclaimed at Mass today.:

“By comparing what the prophetic Scriptures tell us of Jesus with what his history tells us, we find nothing dissolute about him recorded. For even those who conspired against him and looked for false witnesses to aid them did not find any plausible grounds for advancing a false charge of licentiousness against him. His death was indeed the result of a conspiracy and bore no resemblance to the death of Asclepius by lightning. And what is venerable about the madman Dionysus, clothed in female garments, that he should be worshiped as a god? If those who defend such beings resort to allegorical interpretations, we must examine each individual allegory to ascertain whether it is well founded and whether those beings who were torn down by the Titans10 and cast from their heavenly throne11 can have a real existence and deserve respect and worship. But when our Jesus “appeared to the members of his own troop” — for I will take the word that Celsus employs — he really did appear. But Celsus makes a false accusation against the gospel, saying that what appeared was a shadow. Let their histories and that of Jesus be carefully compared. Will Celsus hold that the former are true, but the latter are inventions, even though the histories of Jesus were recorded by eyewitnesses who showed that they clearly understood the nature of what they had seen by their actions and who manifested their state of mind by what they cheerfully underwent for the sake of his gospel? Now who, desiring to act in conformity with right reason, would yield assent at random to what is related in their histories and without examination refuse to believe what is recorded of Jesus?

Again, when it is said of Asclepius that a great multitude both of Greeks and Barbarians acknowledge that they have frequently seen and still see no mere phantom but Asclepius himself healing and doing good and foretelling the future, Celsus expects us to believe this; and he finds no fault with believers in Jesus, when they express their belief in such stories. But when we give our assent to the disciples who were eyewitnesses of the miracles of Jesus and who clearly manifested the honesty of their convictions (because we see their guilelessness, as far as it is possible to see the conscience revealed in writing), we are called by him a set of “silly” individuals.” (Against Celsus, 3.)

O God,
author of our freedom and of our salvation,
listen to the voice of our pleading
and grant that those you have redeemed
by the shedding of your Son’s Blood
may have life through You
and, under Your protection,
rejoice for ever unharmed.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the
unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen