For those who have attended all the liturgical ceremonies of Holy Week, especially the long Easter Vigil last evening, or for those who have seriously kept the last forty days of Lent, you have to know, from just your own experience of all this, that Easter is the greatest feast of the Christian year. The fact is, we will continue to celebrate it for the next fifty days. Why is this?
When you think about it, isn't it obvious? After all, every person who has ever lived was born (with the possible exception of Adam & Eve -- that is, if you insist on reading the scriptures literally). But how many people have risen from the dead? Without the Resurrection, the cross would only signify total failure and defeat, and Christianity would have no more claim to a historical foundation than Islam or Hinduism or any other of the world's great religions.
So how can we know for sure that the Resurrection of Christ is true or actually took place? Of course, we have the witness of the Apostles, and of Mary Magdalene and the others, and according to St. Paul, of over five hundred others who saw Jesus after he was raised. Yet even for St. Paul, that is not enough. Listen to what he says in his First Letter to the Corinthians (15:16-17): "For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." In other words, if resurrection is impossible for us, then it was impossible for Jesus as well!
St. Paulís argument may strike us as being rather odd. Why would the resurrection of Christ necessarily demand our own? Even more, if we are not raised from the dead, why would this imply that Jesus wasnít -- after all, isnít he Godís son?
But Paul is not confining himself to just an argument about history or what is possible or impossible in the realm of physics. Paul is not talking primarily about an empty tomb, or even about a resuscitated body. These were meant to be, I would submit, only temporary signs of something much more permanent -- a "spiritual body" living on or in a whole new plane or state of existence, one that has little in common with our physical existence here on earth. Yet there is a real connection between the two. And what is that?
The answer to that question is how we are living here and now. Paul makes it clear that if we expect to be raised with Christ in the future, we must live, as it were, a "risen life" even here and now. Listen again to the words of St. Paul in todayís second reading.
"If you have been raised up with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth" (Colossians 3:1-2).
In other words, the way we live now is the only really convincing proof today, here and now, of Christís Resurrection. In other words, it is up to us today to fulfill the role of the Apostles. Yes, they got to see the risen Christ. But today no one can see him except in what they see in us. The ball is, as they say, on our side of the court. It is up to us to hit it.
Many years ago, Emmanuel Cardinal Suhard, the Archbishop of Paris, wrote a famous pastoral letter in which he said that "To be a witness doesnít mean to stand on a soapbox or on a street-corner preaching. It means simply (or first of all) to live your life in such a way that it would make no sense unless God exists."
So too, if we expect to spread the good news that Christ has risen, our life must be lived in the pattern of the risen Christ. Unless we try to do that, then, in a way, we only crucify Jesus again. If so, then, as far as the rest of the world can see, Christ has not been raised and our faith remains useless or in vain.
R W Kropf 3/27/05 Easter05.doc 05-03-27.html