Believing in the Resurrection

Believing in the Resurrection: The Meaning and Promise of the Risen Jesus, by Gerald O’Collins. Paulist Press (Mahwah, N.J., 2012). 225 pp., $24.95, PB.

To paraphrase Shakespeare’s words from Hamlet (Act III, Scene 2), the author doth protest too much, methinks. After reading Gerald O’Collins’s Believing in the Resurrection: The Meaning and Promise of the Risen Jesus, this reviewer finds that the book would have fit better into the “What Are They Saying About?” series of works.

This is not to say that there is nothing good about the work. In the first 25 pages, the introduction, Collins samples “certain works on the resurrection of Christ published in the past decade.” Nine books are examined for their major ideas, answering this question: “What are some representative authors saying about [Christ’s] resurrection?”

Collins, professor emeritus of the Gregorian University, Rome, continues by examining the worldviews and background theories that affect and even shape modern peoples’ response to the message of the resurrection, with an emphasis on what led to Jesus’ being condemned to death and crucified.

Then follow chapters on the meaning of the resurrection claim (chapter 2), the appearances of the risen Jesus (chapter 3), the discovery of His empty tomb (chapter 4), and other factors that triggered and maintained the Easter faith and hope of the first disciples. Chapter 5 answers this question: “What was the resurrection believed to have done in redeeming and transforming humanity and the world?”

“Can one produce a reasonable case for. . .Easter faith?” is the topic of chapter 6, while chapter 7 attempts to make “some sense of the nature of risen life and the final transformation of the whole created universe.” Chapter 8 discusses, “What impact should the resurrection have on [Christians’] liturgical celebrations and ethical thinking and behavior?”

While this reviewer doesn’t think the work adds anything new to the biblical understanding of Christ’s resurrection, it serves as a good summary of various contemporary approaches.

Although not overly enthusiastic about reading another book on priesthood, this reviewer found Ronald Witherup’s Gold Tested in Fire: A New Pentecost for the Catholic Priesthood (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn., 2012. 225 pp., $24.95 PB) refreshing. Witherup, Superior General of the Sulpicians, synthesizes ecclesial documents on the priesthood and presents his findings in a dozen well-organized chapters.

For example, in chapter one, “The Priest as Shepherd,” the author presents what he considers to be the three key elements of the late Pope John Paul II’s Pastores Dabo Vobis, followed by the four pillars of priestly formation.

Witherup’s doctorate in biblical studies serves him well in articulating the topics of the first six chapters: Priestly Ministry in Light of the Letters of St. Paul, The Biblical and Patristic Roots of the Ministry of Leadership, Priesthood: The contribution of Hebrews, A Biblical Spirituality of Celibacy, and Eunuchs for the Sake of the Kingdom: What Kind of Image?

In the following six chapters, Witherup uses the biblical basis established in the previous six chapters to draw a picture of what contemporary priesthood might look like.

The first is developed in chapter seven, “The Priest as Poet: Reimagining the Priesthood.” The second, “The Priest as Sage: Retrieving a Neglected Model,” is developed in chapter eight. And the third is found in chapter nine, “The Priest as Teacher: Reassessing a Familiar Role.”

The last three chapters of the book return the reader to the beginning pages. Chapter 10 presents “The Role of Scripture Studies in Priestly Ministry.” Chapter 11 explores “Ongoing Priestly Formation: Option or Necessity?” In chapter 12 Witerup presents “The Graying of the Clergy: A Biblical-Pastoral Perspective.” TP 

Father Boyer, a priest for 37 years, is the author of 33 books primarily in the areas of biblical and liturgical spirituality as well as numerous articles in various magazines, including The Priest, for which he wrote Homily Backgrounds 1987-1993. He teaches in the Religious Studies Department of Missouri State University, Springfield, Mo.