Today Jesus Christ is glorified by His Church as we proclaim our faith that He is truly risen from the grave, the conqueror of death, and the source of an unending life to all who believe in Him. This great news, that Jesus is risen, like the news of his birth, was conveyed to man by angelic creatures, the messengers of God. No less a messenger will do, for this is truly the greatest news for mankind, that death no longer can dominate the human race, that the victory of life over death has been assured in the Resurrection of the Lord whose sacrificial death redeemed us from our sins, and whose resurrection makes possible a whole new life for us in this world, and in the world yet to come.
Yet how resistant mankind is to this good news, both then and now! We should not be surprised that so many people today still resist believing in this good news, when we see how resistant the Apostles were themselves when the woman who was addressed by the angels brought the news to them. Mankind is so dominated by death, that it comes to believe in death more than life, is convinced that death is stronger than life, that death has the final victory, for this is what most men in our day see in human history, the ultimate victory of death which claims all in the end, even the greatest of our race. O, there are signs of something else in nature, like the rebirth of life each Spring, but still all individual things die, and, at least for man, we know no one in our direct experience who has risen anew from death.
And so the apostles were also resistant to this good news – in spite of Jesus telling them ahead of time that it would happen. They obviously did not understand, and were obviously so overcome by their Master’s death, that they were not ready to accept this tremendous news in good faith. Only when they themselves directly and actually encountered the Risen One, did they put their faith in the full truth of His resurrection and the possibility it held out for them and for the world. This faith changed their lives so radically that they were truly men in a true sense born again, men no longer dominated by the fear of death, men on fire with very same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, and gave them new life in Him.
Faith in the resurrection truly gives the believer a new life in this world. It transforms life from being under the domination of death, to a new life which overcomes death. Believing in the resurrection of Jesus goes beyond a simple belief in immortality, that is, in the continuation of our present existence in some vague and perhaps purely spiritual fashion. The resurrection means that man’s destiny is to live forever as man, not as some disembodied spirit, but as flesh and blood, marvelously of course transformed as in Christ, but still a bodily creature raised to a new life in God. Thus faith in the resurrection makes us understand the ultimate truth of the body, that the body is meant to be holy, a temple of the Lord, a temple in which God will dwell forever. We cannot despise the body if we believe in the resurrection; we cannot defile the body or disparage the body in any way, if we truly believe in the Resurrection. That is what St. Paul is suggesting when he says the body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. Our body is His and His risen body is ours, and we live this mystery in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Those who do not believe in the resurrection cannot understand the Christian’s deep respect for the sacredness of the body. There can be no ultimate appreciation of the mystery of human dignity without faith in the resurrection. It is not just one truth among others concerning man. It is the great truth that enlightens all others, and fills our hearts with joy. It is the truth that enables us to live in this world without being its slave, that enables us to love this world, without mistaking it for our final home. It is the truth that enables us to see beyond, to see the possibility of victory over every form of slavery or death, the real possibility of leading a truly new life already in this world. And if the truth of the resurrection enables us to see this possibility, the power of Christ’s resurrection actually enables us to realize that possibility. Christ is risen from the dead, and now that same victory is ours, if we have faith, and turn to Him for the power to live the new life he made possible for us by His death, a life of freedom from sin, and by his resurrection, a life of true goodness in God.
Today we celebrate our victory over death in Christ. May we also experience the power of His victory in our own lives now, and come to know its full victory in the resurrection of the just. God Bless you all, and may this be a truly joyous Easter for all of us who believe the message of angels and of those chosen companions who encountered the Lord in His risen body.