Dear Friends in Christ,
He is risen, he is risen, he is truly risen! Alleluia!
At the very heart of our Christian faith is the belief that Jesus of Nazareth, an itinerant rabbi of 2000 years ago, was condemned and executed by Roman authorities for the crime of sedition in the backwater province of Palestine and after three days rose alive from the grave! Over the centuries there have been countless attempts to deny this, water it down, spiritualize it, attribute this to mass psychosis or delusion or any number of things. But the Church has maintained without reservation or condition the historical fact that Jesus Christ, “suffered, died and was buried and on the third day rose again.” Without Easter, our faith is worthless!
The resurrection of Jesus is central to who we are. In Jesus’ resurrection, sin and death are conquered. Not the concepts of sin and death, but actual sin and actual human death. The reality of death is not escaped but has been conquered and obliterated by Jesus. How different this is from the world’s approach. Throughout history people have gone to great lengths to deny death, to cheat death, to seek ways around death or to rationalize death. From surgery to burial customs, we don’t like death. It frightens us. It intimidates us. It is a mystery. One of the odd things I hear at the death of a loved one is when people say, “we don’t want anything sad, we want to be happy!” I appreciate the sentiment to a degree, but let’s be real, there is sadness in death. There is no escaping this reality. No matter how relieved we might be that a person’s illness or suffering is over, there is still the pain of loss and the sadness of separation. If death is just a happy thing or worse – nothing, then why are people so death averse? Why do we go to such great lengths to postpone, avoid, or deny death? If death is such a happy thing in and of itself, why do have to be told, ‘don’t make us sad’?
Death is part of our human reality and death is painful. Death hurts beyond words. Christ’s
resurrection from the dead does not exempt us from the experience or even the pain of death. Belief in Jesus does not exempt us from difficulties in this life. What Jesus gives us by his resurrection is not an exemption from death or the troubles of life, but a means to overcome the finality death’s hold upon us and to work through the challenges of life. In the prayers of the Funeral Mass, we pray, “Lord, for your faithful people life is changed not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death, we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven!” Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we are able to enter and share a whole new life, a life without end, a life of glory with God in heaven. Jesus’ victory over death is also a victory over sin which is the ultimate cause of death. By the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, we are able to live this life in his grace and with his joy. By the power of Jesus’ resurrection, we are able to live in newness of life while here on earth and in eternal glory in the life to come. The power of the resurrection is God’s love for us. This is the ultimate meaning of the Rabbi’s death and resurrection. Because He loved us, even unto death, we have been set free. Because He loves us, we are no longer captives and slaves to the pain, darkness and loneliness of sin and death. Because He loves us, he rose from death so that we might rise with him to a new life. So today, Easter Sunday, we rejoice. God, who is love, has won the victory for us in Jesus, His son.
Jesus is risen! He is truly risen! Alleluia!
In pace Christi,