The solemnities of the Lord's Nativity and Resurrection are so profound in the life of the Church that they are celebrated over an eight-day period called an "octave." I shall not promise blogging coverage for each day, but let's start with
The second day in the Octave of Easter, which features a curious tale of guards asleep at the switch. Apparently people have a hard time staying awake in the Lord's Presence. Is it the company, or the hour? Or is it the human person, whose presence of mind just shuts down amid Him who is fully-present always to all? I must concede that Jesus is soporific. The Blessed Sacrament emits rays of diphenhydramine, it seems. The guards were awake at the time of the Resurrection, says St. Matthew, but "became like dead men" at His appearing (28:4). They reported the awesome sight to the chief priests, who devised a fine story and produced a payoff to the guards so they would spread it. (Was it thirty pieces of silver? At least that sum would have maintained the budget item: 400-33, "Jesus of Nazareth: Betrayal.")
The NAB footnote for this passage on the etiology of the empty tomb (28:11-15) says that the account "indicates that the dispute between Christians and Jews about the empty tomb was not whether the tomb was empty but why." Numerous factors have led scholars to assert that Matthew wrote his gospel for Christians of Jewish origin, who of all believers at the time would have been interested in what fellow Jews had to say about the disappearance of His Body. The account certainly adds to the polemic concerning the Chosen People's division over this Man. "His disciples stole the body--yeah, that's what we'll tell 'em." And that's probably what they wanted to believe. Nothing extraordinary here, just run along. Show's over.
But it isn't. As The Carpenters (!) sang, "We've Only Just Begun." Quite the homiletic stretch to read the early Church's beginnings into this song (http://www.elyrics.net/read/c/carpenters-lyrics/we_ve-only-just-begun-lyrics.html), but hey, what the heck.
"Before the risin' sun (Son), we fly / So many roads to choose / We'll start out walkin' and learn to run"
"Sharing horizons that are new to us / Watching the signs along the way" (Wasn't "The Way" one of the earliest monikers for Christianity?)
OK, Space Cadet, time to descend. Paul Williams would sue me for Inflammation of Character.
Anyhow, the evidence is overwhelming, though the watchword (here as always with Jesus) is invitation. There is no forcing our belief and personal investment in the divinity of the Christ. His Self-emptying is so profound that He is, in a certain sense, powerless over intentional incredulity. But then there's St. Paul, who was "blinded by the light." That one was so thick-headed (as he himself would admit) that only astounding divine intervention would convince him. Most of us merit incremental interventions, occasionally to be floored by the Redeemer's radiance when we're on our personal warpaths.