"In those days, Peter, standing in the midst of the people, said: 'Men, brethren, you know the word which hath been published through all Judea, for it began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; now God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things that He did in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they killed, hanging Him on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and gave Him to be made manifest, not to all the people, but to witnesses preordained by God; even to us, who did eat and drink with Him, after He arose again from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that it is He who was appointed by God to be judge of the living and of the dead. To Him all the Prophets give testimony, that by His name all who believe in Him receive remission of sins."
The Church calls us on Easter Sunday to give witness to that which we have not seen with our own eyes. Holy Mother Church places in the Mass of Low Sunday the words of Our Lady to Saint Thomas, words which are quite apt for us who have never seen the Resurrected Lord. "You believe in me, Thomas, because you have seen Me; happy are those who have not seen Me, but still believe!"
Indeed, the Gospels contain no eyewitness report of the actual event of Our Lord pushing back the stone that had sealed the tomb in which His lifeless Body had spent forty hours. The soldiers were asleep when the earthquake occurred and the stone was rolled back. Most of the Apostles were hiding in fright in the Upper Room. Our Lady, to whom tradition teaches us Our Lord appeared first following His Resurrection, was keeping a prayer vigil. Saint Mary Magdalene and the other women were on their womb to the tomb. No one saw the actual event of the Resurrection.
Of course, Our Lord did rise from the dead. The Resurrection of the God-Man from the dead following his Crucifixion on Good Friday is the central fact of our Catholic Faith. However, Our Lord arranged things so that we would have to put faith in the word of those who saw Him after the Resurrection. He wanted us to see the transformation that would take place in the lives of those eyewitnesses following the descent of the Holy Ghost upon them and Our Lady in tongues of flame on Pentecost Sunday, fifty days after Easter, in the same Upper Room in Jerusalem where He had instituted the Priesthood and the Eucharist at the Last Supper. He wanted to teach us that the graces He won for us on the wood of the Holy Cross - and which are administered to us by Holy Mother Church in the sacraments - are as powerful now as they were immediately after His Resurrection and Ascension to the Father's right hand in glory. The Apostles were willing to run the risk even of physical death to bear witness of the fact of the Resurrection. So must we.
Our Lord's Resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday came after He had spent forty hours in the tomb in His Sacred Humanity. In His Sacred Divinity, though, Our Lord rescued all of the souls of the just from their place of detention, even stretching out his arms to the first Adam, who had made necessary His own death on the Tree of Life on Golgotha that is the Holy Cross. Although the Apostles were frightened and many in Jerusalem thought that they had rid themselves of a delusional, self-proclaimed prophet, Our Lord was teaching us even in those forty hours of darkness and waiting.
The forty hours Our Lord's Sacred Humanity spent lifeless in the tomb are supposed to teach us that we need to patient as we wait for the moment of our own Particular Judgments. We need to be patient as we bear the crosses we are asked to bear in our daily lives, as well as in the midst of the Church and in the world. We need to be people of faith, never losing hope in the fact that Our Lord is with us at every moment of our lives, that there is never any cross that is beyond our capacity to bear with perfect equanimity and no semblance of anxiety or doubt. This mortal life of ours is relatively short in comparison with eternity. We need to be patient, to do the work of the Apostles, to be assiduous in prayer and faithful to our total consecration to Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. Our bodies, too, will rise up out of their tombs incorrupt and glorious on the Last Day if we remain faithful to the point of our dying breaths in a state of sanctifying grace.
Our Lord's Resurrection on Easter Sunday was not the resuscitation back to the mere mortal life experienced by Lazarus. No, Our Lord went forth into a new and glorified state that had been experienced by no human being before Him. Our Lord's glorified Body had properties It did not have prior to the Resurrection. The glorified Body of the Divine Redeemer reminds us, therefore, that the bodies of all of the just will have those same properties for all eternity when they are reunited to our souls on the Last Day. The Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is not only the symbol of His total triumph over the power of sin an death. It is also a vivid reminder to us of the joy that awaits those who persevere until the end as His faithful disciples, members of the Church He created upon the rock of Peter, the pope.
The purpose of human existence is to know, love and serve God in this life so we will live with Him forever in Heaven. It is for this supreme moment of radiating joy that Our Lord came into the world, paying back the blood debt of our own sins so that we could have life and have it to the fullest. Thus, our old lives of unbelief and self-centeredness must be forever buried in the waters of our baptism. We must put on the new man Who is Jesus Christ, which is why our Godparents were given a white baptismal gown to place on us. We must understand that we are meant to shine forth always the light of Christ in the world, which is why our Godparents held a lit candle at the moment of our baptism. Easter Sunday teaches us that Our Lord wants us to be transfigured glory for all eternity. And we must understand that every aspect of our daily lives - and of the lives of nations themselves, as Pope Pius XI reminded Catholics in Quas Primas in 1925 - must reflect the reality of the Incarnation, Nativity, Hidden Years, Public Ministry, Passion, Death, and Resurrection of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made Man, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We will renew our baptismal promises on Easter Sunday. We must listen to the questions that are asked of us, pledging ourselves then and there to bury ourselves again and again so that we can rise anew in sanctifying grace in the hospital of Divine Mercy that is the confessional. Although many people who attend Mass on Easter Sunday will not return until Christmas, we must try to get to Holy Mass as frequently as we can during the week so that the old yeast can be purged and replaced with the graces we receive in the Holy Eucharist.
May Our Lady, who made Easter possible by her fulfillment of the Father's will, pray for us that we will truly believe in the miracle of her Divine Son's Resurrection and thus become an Alleluia people who lead family and friends to partake of the great unending Easter Sunday of glory in
Rejoice! Rejoice! Our Lord has died for us. He has risen from the dead. A season of celebration is now upon us. We know that there is an empty tomb in Jerusalem because the God-Man got up and walked out on His own power, and that He wants to lead us through His Holy Church to our own empty tombs at the end of time. Alleluia.
Blessed Easter to each of you and your families.
Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.
For Tom's first segment on Passiontide, see Part One
For his second segment for Palm Sunday, see Part Two
For his third segment for Holy Thursday, see Part Three
For his fourth segment for Good Friday, see Part Four
For his fifth segment for Holy Saturday, see Part Five