The Resurrection Is What Makes Us Different
On the first day of the week, the third day of his Passion, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Today is his day.
Many great historical figures have led exemplary lives, taught wise doctrines, and even died for the truth. But only one has risen again.
Among the vast array of humanity’s greatest heroes, only about Jesus Christ can we say: “He rose again on the third day, in fulfilment of the scriptures.”
Only in Christ’s resurrection do goodness and power finally unite. The good guy wins! Only in Christ’s resurrection does love prove that it is stronger than death. In Christ and in his resurrection, a new – a wildly new – hope dawns for all mankind, the hope that if we stay united to him through faith and grace, we will rise with him, rise from our very tombs, and live with him forever in the never-ending adventure of heaven.
No one else offers such a hope, because no one else has risen from the dead to be able to offer it – only the Lord.
The Resurrection is the definitive watershed in the history of religions; it makes Christianity absolutely unique. In the Resurrection, reality becomes more wonderful than myth.
Only the reality of the Resurrection can explain the reality of the history of the Church:
A few weak, non-influential, and uneducated fishermen from Galilee, frightened out of their wits when Jesus was arrested and executed, suddenly become world travellers, phenomenally successful preachers, and valiant martyrs.
And the Church they spread continues to spread after they die, holding fast to the exact same doctrine they preached, century after century, in nation after nation.
Only the abiding presence of the Lord can explain this, and only the resurrection explains the abiding presence of the Lord.
This is what makes us, as Christians, different.
Christ’s resurrection makes Christianity the only truly Supernatural religion.
Almost all the religions in the history of the world have been strictly natural.
The polytheistic religions recognized mankind’s dependence on powers outside of their control: life and death, food and light, the seasons and the stars.
In primitive times, when mere survival was at stake, religion attempted to provide a way for men and women to stay in perfect synch with these natural forces. Hunting and agricultural rituals and sacrifices served that purpose. Today, New Age, neo-paganism, witchcraft, Wicca, Dianetics, and other belief systems are returning to this naturalism.
In advanced civilizations, religion developed along more negative lines.
Once human societies became stable enough to produce a high literary culture, there emerged an awareness of the potential futility of the natural religions. The cycles of nature didn’t appear to go anywhere. There didn’t seem to be any progress. It felt like a purposeless wheel of birth, death, and rebirth.
For these advanced religions, then, the goal became an escape from the supposedly meaningless natural cycles and a blending into the nothingness beyond nature. This was the case of Buddhism, for example, and Taoism.
Judaism was entirely different – which makes sense, since it alone of the ancient religions consisted in God revealing himself to man, not man striving to understand God.
Judaism recognized a personal, transcendent God. Since he had created nature, he was beyond it. And since men and women were created in his image and likeness, they too were more than merely parts of nature. They went beyond it; they had a supernatural vocation. But sin had obscured this vocation – the Israelites were still seeking heaven on earth.
Islam, which began six centuries after Christ, returned to an Old Testament type of faith – as Christians we might regard it as incomplete, but closer to the truth than the old pagan or escapist religions.
We believe that only with Christ’s resurrection was the revelation of man’s supernatural vocation made complete.
Christ, by rising from the dead, revealed it in his own life.
He transcended all natural limits, not by dissolving into nothingness, as the old religions taught, but by entering into the glory of complete communion with God. That is the vocation of every human being. In him, without losing our personalities, we become sharers in the divine, everlasting life.
This is the unthinkable, wonderful revelation of Easter. It is what makes us different.
St. Ignatius Loyola’s famous little book, The Spiritual Exercises, contains several contemplations on the Resurrection.
One of these deals with what St Ignatius thought would have been Jesus’ very first appearance after rising from the dead – an appearance to his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
This appearance isn’t mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels, but St Ignatius considered it to be common sense.
In fact, as a caption to this section of his book, he wrote, “Don’t be stupid.” And indeed, Mary’s name doesn’t appear on the list of women who went to the tomb on Easter morning.
Why didn’t she go with them, as she had done at the burial?
Maybe because Jesus had already risen and appeared to her.
Mary’s great virtue is faith.
She believed that “what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.” She had heard Christ’s prophecies: “The Son of Man will be killed and rise on the third day”; “Destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in three days.” Mary meditated on this in her heart, and we can imagine how eagerly she was looking forward to seeing the risen Lord.
When Jesus finally appeared, we can imagine how lovingly she embraced him.
What might they have talked about?
Maybe they spoke about Mary’s new mission – now she was the spiritual mother of the whole Church. Maybe they spoke about the Scriptures that Jesus had fulfilled through his passion, death, and resurrection. Maybe tears of joy were enough all on their own.
And that joy was of a whole new kind – it was the joy of the resurrection, an everlasting joy that neither death nor suffering could tarnish ever again.
And that’s the joy that every Christian can look forward to, because of Easter; it’s what makes us different.
Making an Easter Resolution
Today we should relish this joy of Easter, thanking God for letting us share in this victory, for giving us this hope.
But let’s not stop there. Let’s not just enjoy Easter, let’s let it change our lives.
Christ’s resurrection is not just a nice idea; it is the power of eternal life at work in us. Why not do something for the eight weeks of the Easter season to plug into that power?
Almost every one of us made an effort to live Lent in a special way. Most likely we gave something up for Lent. That was a practical way to give the special graces that God sends during Lent some room to work in our souls.
So, if we gave something up as a way to help us live the penitential season of Lent, why not take something up as a way to help us live the joyful season of Easter?
In the Epistle for Easter Sunday (the Second Reading in the Ordinary Form), St Paul encourages us to “think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”
Why don’t we make an Easter resolution that will help us do that, that will help us keep in mind the eternal life in Christ that is waiting for us if we stay faithful to him?
It could be something simple: like inviting a friend or family member who has forgotten about Christ’s victory to come to Mass on Sundays and then inviting them over for lunch; like watching a classic film together as a family each Sunday between now and Pentecost – a joyful, uplifting film; like having a special outing or get-together with friends on Fridays; like taking some time each evening to re-read some of your favourite books, the ones that stir up joy in your soul
If we ask the Holy Spirit to give us some ideas, he won’t be stingy. He just needs us to decide to let Easter make a difference in our lives, the way it should.
Our souls need that as much as they needed the time of penance and contrition that we lived during Lent, otherwise we’ll never be strong enough to carry our crosses, and they will overwhelm us, instead of inspiring us.
The Church is a wise mother in giving us six weeks of Lent and eight weeks of Easter.
So today, as we receive the risen Lord in the Eucharist, let’s promise him that we will find a way to benefit from that wisdom.
Surrexit Christus Vere! Alleluia, Alleluia!
A peaceful and happy Easter to you all; may the joy of the Risen Christ be in your hearts and minds now and always.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
ǂ Peter, Archbishop
Domenica Resurrectionis MMXIV