The uncomfortable good news of the Resurrection

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Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord:
March 31, 2013

Acts 10:34, 37-43; Ps 118; Col 3:1-4; Luke 24:1-12

Imagine for a moment that the resurrection didn’t happen. In that case, when the women went to the tomb at daybreak carrying their spices, they would have found the stone firmly in front of the entrance; they would have had to find some people to help them to roll it away; and they would have anointed the dead body of Jesus. It would have been a sad, depressing scene: the women, sorrowing over this prophet from Galilee, who had gone about doing good and healing many—now just one more victim, betrayed by his countrymen and crushed by the empire.

Would that have been the end of the story? Perhaps not, one writer (Caryll Houselander, This War Is the Passion) thinks: surely in every age there would have been some, like St. Mary Magdalene and St. John, who would have come sorrowing, bringing their precious ointment of love. But they would have been few, and the Christian world would have been a world of weeping, over love once again defeated.

But that isn’t what happened, is it? No! Because on that first Easter Sunday, the women were puzzled to find the stone rolled away from the tomb, and no dead body anywhere, but instead two angels in dazzling garments with a message to proclaim to them. And soon the women and the apostles were proclaiming the message to others—traveling even to other countries to spread the good news.

And what was that good news?

  • Was it: “I want to let you know that it’s spring! And it’s warm and sunny, and the flowers are blooming and little chicks and bunnies are being born!”
  • Was it: “I have come with urgency to tell you about a dead rabbi that I found to be really inspiring!” (Fr. Robert Barron, Catholicism video series)
  • No, it was resurrection! It was the news that Jesus was not among the dead but he had been raised; that God raised him on the third day; that Christ my hope is arisen! They had seen him and talked with him; touched him; ate and drank with him. He had commissioned them to spread the news.

And what did the resurrection mean to them? Something truly astonishing, actually. Because they knew as well as we do that, as Ben Franklin said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” So what would it mean if death ever became uncertain?—if it was ever defeated or undone? Among the Jewish people of the 1st century, there was plenty of controversy about this—the Pharisees said there would be a resurrection, while the Sadducees said there would not—but this much they agreed upon: if the resurrection ever did occur, it would be the end of the world as we know it.

And in the resurrection of Jesus, death was conquered and something utterly new and transformative began. For our Lord Jesus did not stumble out of the tomb, exhausted and bloody. Nor did he simply return to resume his ordinary earthly life. Rather, he did rise bodily, but his body was transformed. He was still quite able to able to operate within this world, but with such power that locks and walls and distances and appearances all melted away before him.

And in this lies the biggest surprise of all: that the resurrection had begun, overlapping with this world of space and time and sin and death, springing up within it, like an invasion of something completely other. And not only did Christ make the resurrection to spring up and overlap with this world, but he created such an overlap individually in each of us who are baptized in him: for the power of the resurrection is applied to our souls in baptism, transforming them, even while we wait for the last day for the transformation of our bodies.

Crazy, huh? What do you do with that?

Wouldn’t it have been simpler if Jesus had just stayed dead in the tomb? Our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, observed in his homily last night that we know what it is to visit a monument or a tomb of a great historical figure who lives on only as a memory. We know what that is like; we are secure in keeping them at that distance. But Jesus doesn’t let us keep him at a distance. He rises from the dead; he walks out of the tomb and into our lives. And at the same time that that turns our sorrow into joy, it also can shake us up and make us feel uncertain and afraid. What are we supposed to do with this? Can’t we just keep him at a safe distance; can’t we just keep him in the tomb?

And Pope Francis urges:

Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.

Seek the risen Christ today; right now. How can you do this? I have three quick, basic recommendations:

  • First, prayer. Every day, take some time to be conscious of our risen Lord’s presence with you and his love for you. You can do this anywhere, but it is especially good if you can visit a church where he is present in the Blessed Sacrament. Speak to him about yourself, your life, your feelings; and listen to what he says to you.
  • Second, confession. Sacramental confession is an amazing way to experience our Lord’s personal, individual love for you, as he washes away your sins. And, if you are carrying around unconfessed serious sins, then you are right now spiritually dead; but our Lord Jesus will restore your share in the divine life in confession.
  • Third, be sure to come to Mass every Sunday. For on this Lord’s Day that celebrates the resurrection every week, you unite yourself to our risen Christ like nowhere else, and to his people.

Our Lord Jesus is very close to you, especially in prayer, confession, and Sunday Mass. He is the one who conquered death; he is our hope and our Savior; he has the power to heal and save you, and to transform your life. Let this Easter Sunday be the first day of a whole new life for you.

As St. Paul said in our second reading:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above… Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.

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