Today we reflect on the glorious resurrection of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Christ has risen! Indeed he has truly risen! By his own power he arose and is seen in His glorified body. What a joyous day! Jesus Christ has paid the ransom for our sin. His passion and death on the cross was the expiation—the payment for our sin. In the sin that Adam and Eve had committed, mankind had turned away, had rejected God. In sinning we make ourselves enemies of God and we need one to reconcile us. In Jesus Christ we are reconciled. It is only in Him that we are reconciled. As the sequence declares, “Christ, who only is sinless, reconciles sinners to the Father”. This true paschal lamb offers himself to the Father. He takes our sin upon Himself, and we can see the ugliness of sin in His passion.
The darkness and starkness of the Passion is changed into the bright and glorious joy of Easter.
That morning when the women went to the tomb to find His body they did not find it for He was already at work saving souls! It was as if he did not want to waste a single moment. May that also be for us—energetically responding to God’s will, not wanting to waste a single moment.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ points out several things to us:
1.We must remain close to Christ in the Sacraments: Sometimes I hear as a priest that all churches are the same, it doesn’t matter what we believe, that going to Mass on Sunday is something negotiable, etc., etc We are not the creators of our lives, and if we want to truly live, we should look to see how the one who created us calls us to live. Jesus gave us a visible Church to teach and guide us and remains with us in the Sacraments, and even if the Catholic Church seems as if it is being torn asunder by weak priests and bishops, it is still the Church Jesus has given us. The Apostles didn’t quit because they saw the weakness of Peter, but rather they knew their own weakness and were humbled at the great call of our Lord to them to be the pillars of the Church. Mary Magdala went and ran to tell the first Pope and one of the bishops—and it was St Peter who went into the tomb first. If we wish to see the risen Christ, we must remain close to the Church. If we do not belong to the Catholic Church, it is always possible to join. At the Easter vigil every year people are baptized, or for those who are already baptized but not Catholic, are received into the Church. We do not excuse ourselves from the sacramental life or the moral life because we see the weakness of others in the Church. Like Jesus who left the tomb behind, we too should leave sin behind. We should leave behind whatever keeps us from God, whatever hinders our conversion. We receive this life from the Sacraments, and God has commanded us to keep the Holy Day—to consecrate this day to Him to come to Mass where this expiation and reconciliation of the cross is made present to us again. He commands us to eat His body and blood (cf. John 6) and it is only in the Catholic Church where we can do this. If we have not been getting to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day, no better time than the present to do this. Refusing to go to Mass on Sunday is refusing the gift of salvation, it is refusing God, it is saying no to Heaven. It cannot be said any simpler than that. Skipping Sunday Mass without a serious reason such as sickness is a mortal sin. Nobody is able to resurrect his own body and soul but Jesus Christ. Thus if we do not have the life of Christ in us, we cannot rise to eternal life with him. We truly need a savior.
2.Jesus died in order to open the gates of heaven: Why would our Lord submit to such a terrible death if He didn’t think it was worth it? Before our Lord’s death on the cross, even the righteous souls were unable to get into heaven. The Church does teach that when our Lord died he went into the netherworld to rescue these souls—the souls who were open to God, prayed, and tried to follow God’s law in their lives—and bring them into heaven. The souls who had rejected God continued to reject God and spend their days in hell. Our Lord did not die in vain, but he endured the Passion so that we might share in eternal life with Him. Once again, his death reconciled us to the Father. He paid the price, the ransom that we could never pay ourselves. We will all experience difficulties and sufferings in life. For example, sickness, unemployment, the death of a loved one, the pain of betrayal, addiction, slander, frustrations of daily life… Jesus Christ passed into the gates of Heaven, but first He climbed onto that cross. We too will be given some crosses in our lives, but these should not scare us. We can either blaspheme God like the one thief, or like the good thief, turn to Jesus acknowledging our own sins, and ask his forgiveness and help. We all need the strength, the life of God, within us-one thief relied on his own power, the other relied on the power of Jesus from the cross. On Holy Saturday, the antiphon for midday prayer says it very clearly: “Lord you have saved my soul from hell”. Do we realize the great victory that we celebrate today? Hell is a terrible place, and Jesus has made it possible for us to not go there! Jesus saved us from hell, but we must follow in His footsteps. Do we allow Jesus to save us from sin? Or do we think that some habitual sin is stronger than him, and refuse the graces he offers us through the Sacrament of Confession and His loving presence in the Eucharist? Jesus is truly victorious and he saves our souls from hell—from the hell of being away from Him in this life and the hell of eternal life—eternal separation from God where there is no faith, hope, or love but only hatred and pride.
3.How we live our lives does matter—Jesus does not force us to accept his gift of salvation: In every Sunday Mass we recite the creed, what we believe. Near the end we state “I believe in the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting”. In our lives God gives us a choice: to accept Him or to deny Him. Jesus freely and fully gave Himself up for you and me. We make the choice with our lives. Firstly if we even follow the basics of the ten commandments, if we come to Mass on Sunday where we celebrate this great paschal mystery—the fact that Jesus suffered and died for you and for me. If we think we can get to heaven on our own powers, we will be in for a tragic surprise when we die. We can only get to heaven because Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross and rose on the third day. The resurrection of the body—this means when we die somehow we will live in eternal life with the bodily form that we have now-minus its defects! We don’t come back to earth and turn into some other form or person—we do not believe in reincarnation. We don’t turn into angels, either. We either enter into heaven, even after some time of purification in purgatory, and receive the great joys and experience those with all our bodily senses without the limitations we experience now. Or if we have rejected God by the choices we make in this life we will continue to live that rejection for all eternity—the great suffering of hell with no faith, hope, or love, and feel this state in our bodies. In dying and rising, Jesus offers us the gift of eternal life but does not force it upon us. Thus how we live our lives does matter. Let us follow closely behind our savior: throwing away whatever is keeping us from Him. Throw away whatever keeps us from His life poured out on the cross and sustains us in the Sacraments. The moral life as clearly taught in the Gospels and the teachings of the Church. The life of prayer and conversion that the saints and blessed in heaven call and challenge us to live. All the sacrifice, scorn, contempt, difficulties we experience in this life are all worth it because we know the life that God calls us to live for ever with him. “Yes, Christ my hope is arisen; to Galilee he goes before you.” Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining. Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!”
Christians, to the Paschal Victim
Offer your thankful praises!
A Lamb the sheep redeems;
Christ, who only is sinless,
Reconciles sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous:
The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.
Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw, wayfaring.
“The tomb of Christ, who is living,
The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he goes before you.”
Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!