A moment during the service of light during the Easter Vigil at the Macau Cathedral, 21 April 2019. – Photo by Ivan Leong.
– Fausto Gomez, OP
Through Easter, we Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. Saint Paul writes: “Remember the Gospel I preach, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead” (2 Tim 2:8). On Easter Vigil and Sunday, the Solemnity of Solemnities, we proclaim the Resurrection of Christ as the central mystery of our faith. We profess in our Creed: “On the third day, He rose from the dead.” Easter Sunday is the third day, and we gloriously preach the Good News (Acts 13:32-33), the news of “first importance” (I Cor 15:3-4): the Lord is risen! And therefore we are Easter People and Alleluia is our song!
A DIFFERENT RESURRECTION
The Resurrection of Christ is intimately linked to his incarnation, and the fulfillment of the incarnation. It is utterly different from other “resurrections” the same Lord had done (and later on, some saints did): He brought to life the daughter of Jairus, the ruler of the Synagogue (Mk 5:34-43), the son of the widow of Nain (Lk 7:11-15), and Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha (Jn 11:38-44). The three who were raised up from death went back to their earthly and finite life, and later on, they died with finality.
The resurrection of Christ is very different: Jesus came back to life – not to an earthly life – but to a life “beyond time and space,” to an incorruptible and glorious divine life. (How beautiful and consoling the description of death by St John the Evangelist: “Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father”- Jn 13:1) Our Savior rose from death by his own power and will, or by the power of the Father that is also his power.
After Jesus’ passion and death on the cross, the first disciples were depressed, sad, demoralized (remember the two disciples of Emmaus). With that understandable negative attitude, the apostles could not invent at all a resurrection that would be “fake news.” The first disciples’ faith in the resurrection followed a gradual process, which started with the empty tomb. Certainly, the empty tomb – the absence of Christ’s body from the tomb – could be explained otherwise; but it was at least the first step towards believing in the Resurrection. John the Evangelist “saw the empty tomb and believed” (Jn 20:2, 6. 8; cf CCC 640). The fact of the empty tomb is immediately followed by about ten apparitions of the glorious Jesus to the apostles which confirmed their faith in the Risen Lord: He is the same crucified Lord, now gloriously different but the same Jesus, God and man. Through this gradual process, some disciples doubted. We are grateful to Thomas for doubting and thus prompting Jesus’ words: “Happy are those who believe, although they do not see” (Jn 20:29).These words were said for us. They represent – for some – the ninth beatitude.
To strengthen our faith in Jesus’ Resurrection, we have most credible witnesses. Once the first disciples embraced wholeheartedly and without any doubt the Resurrection, what an unimaginable change takes place! How the real experience of the Resurrection impacted them: before Easter, they were afraid and sad; after Easter and Pentecost, they are courageous and joyful in proclaiming the death and resurrection of Christ. Not only that: for the sake of the name Jesus, they suffered terribly and paid the ultimate prize – martyrdom. One fact from the Easter narratives moves me deeply: the courageous, hopeful and joyful love of the apostles and of the first Christians. These proclaimed the Word, centered on the death and resurrection of Jesus, in an incredibly bold and joyful manner.
How did the first Christian communities show that they had experienced Christ’s transforming presence? How? Simply by being faithful to Jesus and his Gospel: “They remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to fraternity, to the breaking of the bread, and to prayer… They shared their food gladly and generously, praised God and were looked up to by everyone” (Acts, 2:42, 46-47). Non-believers at that time used to say of the followers of Jesus: “Look how they love each other.”
With the first disciples, Christians through centuries have proclaimed in words and deeds that the Lord is Risen! Thanks God, we are among these disciples, and know that the best way to show our faith in the Risen Lord – yesterday, today and always – is “the faithful following of Jesus” (J. M. Pagola).
OUR OWN RESURRECTION
Faith in the Risen Lord is a personal encounter with him. We are asked by our faith in Jesus to be witnesses of his resurrection, to be able to say “I have seen the Lord,” that is, I have experienced an encounter with the Risen Lord. Our faith is not mainly a doctrine or a morality but the paschal experience: the personal encounter with Jesus in the Church Sacraments, in the Eucharist, in the poor, in communitarian and personal prayer…; above all, in love – the love of Jesus in us: “We are well aware that we have passed over from death to life because we love our brothers” – and sisters (1 Jn 3:14). We should not live, then, for ourselves “but for him who for our sake died and was raised” (2 Cor 5:15).
As believers, we are committed to be witnesses of the Risen Lord in our world: a world of irrational consumerism, growing atheism, gender ideology, populist nationalism, injustice, violence and inequality. Not easy to go against the current! But, like the first Christians, we must – courageously and joyfully! For this awesome task, we need to pray always, and be compassionate. But we are sure of one thing: Christ wins!
We believe in the Resurrection of Christ because our merciful God has donated to us the amazing gift of faith! And because we believe in Jesus’ resurrection, we also believe in our resurrection: “His death is our ransom from death; his resurrection is our rising to life” (Easter, Preface II).
Our living faith in Christ’s resurrection and in our own resurrection grows more fervently – like the faith of the first disciples – gradually, little by little, like the grass in the field. It grows by practicing love through concrete good deeds: an act of kindness, a sincere smile, a silent presence, a gesture of loving concern, a humble word of consolation, a prayer of petition…
Easter calls us to a new, renewed life, which means death to sin and alive in love. If I really want to live a new life, and walk in the newness of life that leads to the glory of heaven, then I truly believe in the Resurrection of the Lord and in my own resurrection. We strongly believe that we are – St. Paul tells us – citizens of heaven. Here on earth, we are pilgrims who one day shall depart to our Father’s house.
Once more, a friend of mine sent to me this lovely message: “I KNOW THAT CHRIST IS RISEN… Because I have experienced forgiveness; because He has placed in my heart a fountain of joy that no one can take away; because I feel a great love for my brothers and sisters, in particular the marginalized; because I notice that the flower of hope is always fresh; because I never feel alone… How wonderful! We are Easter People and Alleluia is our song! Alleluia, that is, praise the Lord!”
HAPPY EASTER SEASON TO ALL!