Easter Sunday 2017

Christ is Risen and He is alive

 Easter is the greatest and the most important feast in the Church. It marks the birthday of our eternal hope.  “Easter” literally means “the feast of fresh flowers.” In the history of the world, only one tomb has ever had a rock rolled before it, and a soldier guard set to watch it to prevent the dead man within from rising: that was the tomb of Christ on the evening of the Friday called Good. They knew that he was dead and He would not rise again; and yet they watched! They remembered that He called His Body the Temple and that in three days after they destroyed It, He would rebuilt It; they recalled too, that He compared Himself to Jonah and said that as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days, so would He be in the belly of the earth for three days and then would rise again. The enemies of Christ expected the Resurrection, but His friends did not. His followers needed and demanded proof before they would be convinced.

Christ is Risen, He is not here: To the holy women who, in the first glow of the day, had gone to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, the angels said: “You are seeking Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen, he is not here.” These words express all the mystery that we celebrate today: Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified, has resurrected.

What does this statement “He has resurrected” means? It does not mean that the Jesus dead on the cross was revived and returned to the life of before such as it happened to the Naim widow’s son, the daughter of Jairus and to Lazarus, who were recalled from death to a life which was to end with a final death. The resurrection of Jesus is not an overcoming of physical death that we know even today: a temporary overcome that at some stage ends with a death with no return. Jesus does not live again as a reanimated dead, but by virtue of divine power, above and beyond the area of what is physically and chemically measurable. The power of God does so that the dead-crucified body of Jesus may be made partaker of the divine life: eternal life. On the last evening of his earthly life, Jesus had prayed: “and now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17.5). On Easter morning this prayer has been heard.

The Resurrection of Christ is the basis of our Christian Faith.  The Resurrection is the greatest of the miracles — it proves that Jesus is God.  That is why St. Paul writes:  “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain; and your Faith is in vain…  And if Christ has not been raised, then your Faith is a delusion and you are still lost in your sins…  But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Cor. 15:14, 17, 20).  If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, then the Church is a fraud and faith is a sham. But if Jesus really did rise from the dead, his message is true! Without the Resurrection, Jesus would have remained forever a good person who had met a tragic end.  People would remember some of his teachings, and a handful of people might try to live according to them. All the basic doctrines of Christianity are founded on the truth of the Resurrection.  “Jesus is Lord; He is risen!” (Rom 10:9) was the central theme of the kerygma (or “preaching”), of the apostles.

Easter is the guarantee of our own resurrection.  Jesus assured Martha at the tomb of Lazarus: “I am the Resurrection and the Life; whoever believes in Me will live even though he dies” (Jn. 11:25-26).  Christ will raise us up on the last day, but it is also true, in a sense, that we have already risen with Christ.  By virtue of the Holy Spirit, our Christian life is already a participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1002, #1003).

Easter is a feast which gives us hope and encouragement in this world of pain, sorrows and tears.  It reminds us that life is worth living.  It is our belief in the Real Presence of the Risen Jesus in our souls, in His Church, in the Blessed Sacrament and in Heaven that gives meaning to our personal, as well as to our common, prayers.   Our trust in the all-pervading presence of the Risen Lord gives us strength to fight against temptations and freedom from unnecessary worries and fears.  The prayer of St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, reads: “Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ within me, never to part.”

Reasons why we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus; (a) Jesus himself testified to his Resurrection from the dead (Mark 8:31; Matthew 17:22; Luke 9:22). (b) The tomb was empty on Easter Sunday (Luke 24:3). Although the guards claimed (Matthew 28:13) that the disciples of Jesus had stolen the body, every sensible Jew knew that it was impossible for the terrified disciples of Jesus to steal the body of Jesus from a tomb guarded by a 16 member team of armed Roman soldiers. (c) The initial disbelief of Jesus’ own disciples in his Resurrection, in spite of his repeated apparitions.  This serves as a strong proof of his Resurrection. It explains why the apostles started preaching the resurrected Christ only after receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. (d) The transformation of Jesus’ disciples: The disciples of Jesus were almost immediately transformed from men who were hopeless and fearful after the crucifixion (Luke 24:21, John 20:19) into men who were confident and bold witnesses of the Resurrection (Acts 2:24, 3:15, 4:2). (e) The Jews and the Romans could not disprove Jesus’ Resurrection by presenting the dead body of Jesus. f) The apostles and early Christians would not have faced martyrdom if they were not absolutely sure of Jesus’ Resurrection. (g) The Apostle Paul’s conversion from a persecutor of Christians into a zealous apostle, preaching the Good News of Jesus throughout much of the Gentile world supports the truth of Jesus’ Resurrection (Galatians 1:11-17, Acts 9:1Acts 9:24-25Acts 26:15-18). (h) The sheer existence of a thriving, empire-conquering early Christian Church, bravely facing three centuries of persecution, supports the truth of the Resurrection claim. (i) The New Testament witnesses do not bear the stamp of dupes or deceivers. The apostles and the early Christians were absolutely sure about the Resurrection of Jesus.

St. John in his first letter (1Jn.1:1-4) speaks very powerfully and emphatically about his experience of the Risen Lord. “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life – for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us – what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so you also may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.”

The resurrection of Jesus has serious implications for our life on earth too. Faith in the resurrection of Jesus calls upon us for a radical transformation, a transformation from exclusiveness to inclusiveness, from narrow mindedness to a broad vision, from an old way life to a new way of life. Before the resurrection, Jesus was mainly limited to a small geographical area, but after the resurrection Jesus became universal, as savior and liberator he became available to the whole world irrespective of caste, class, creed, religion, language, culture etc. Faith in the resurrection of Jesus invites us to transcend our narrow identities like language, religion and culture and embrace the broader and higher identities of humanity and the fatherhood or motherhood of God.