Sunday Sermon for April 16, 2017, Easter Sunday, Year A
Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Col 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-9
In the second reading today St. Paul tells us that when Christ our life appears, we too will appear with Him in glory. The truth of this is that Jesus is risen from the dead and, on the last day of the world, all those who have died united with Him by grace will also rise from the dead and be taken up with Him into glory. We must understand that every human person to have ever lived is going to rise from the dead and their risen bodies will be reunited with the souls and they will live forever.
This sounds wonderful until we make the distinction that those who rejected God’s mercy before they died and were, therefore, in the state of mortal sin when they died, will rise to be an everlasting horror and a disgrace, to use the phrase of the Prophet Daniel. Daniel also says of those who will appear with our Lord in glory that they will rise and shine like the stars in the firmament.
Thankfully, as St. Peter teaches us in the first reading, everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of their sins through His Name. There are billions of people who have died over the centuries, and with modern medical advances, many people who have been brought back from the dead. However, there is only one person Who fulfills what Scripture reveals regarding the Messiah and there is only one person in History to Whom the forgiveness of sin is credited.
But all of this is predicated on one event: the resurrection. Unlike the many people who have been resuscitated through modern medicine, or like Lazarus, the daughter of Jairus, or the son of the widow of Nain, Jesus is resurrected. All of the others had to, or will have to, die again. All of us must enter into life by first entering into death. Not the temporary event as occurs for those who were resuscitated, but a death from which there is no return to life on the natural level.
If Jesus did not rise from the dead, He would be no different from any of those who were acclaimed as something great and then, after dying, their earthly glory came to its close. The earthly glory of Jesus also came to an end, one could say, because He was glorified on earth only when He was on the Cross. Still, He continues to be glorified in the hearts of all who believe in Him, a belief that would be completely foolish if He had not risen from the dead.
So, today we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection from the dead. This means that we are also celebrating that day on which, and the event by which, the power of death was destroyed. As we have already seen, every person who ever has, or ever will, live on earth will rise from the dead because of our Lord’ resurrection. Those who die in Christ will share in His glory; those who die apart from Him will remain in their sin for eternity. But either way, the body of every person will rise and be reunited with their soul and live forever in one of only two possibilities.
Because of this reality, we must choose well. The choice of where we will spend eternity is made in this life, before we die. Once the soul leaves the body there is no way to change one’s mind. In other words, there will be no opportunity to repent at the moment of our judgment (which takes place immediately after death). For this reason, the Church gives to us the reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians not only to remind us that when Christ our life appears on the last day that we will appear with Him in glory, but more pertinent to the moment we are in, we have to seek what is above and to think of what is above rather than being concerned with what is on earth. After all, as St. Paul says, we have been raised with Christ.
How is this possible? At our baptism, we were baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ. We became a member of Christ, so we have a share in everything that is Jesus. We share in His divine nature, His divine life, His Sonship, His inheritance; therefore, we also share in His death, His resurrection, and His glorification. What remains is for us to die physically, to rise from the dead and to enter into glory. Our resurrection and glorification will take place on the last day of the world.
This is all pretty amazing, but do not doubt. Instead, rejoice that God has given you the privilege to participate in the Person, the work, and the glory of His Son. Alleluia!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.