Sunday Sermon for April 1, 2018, the Solemnity of Easter, Year B
Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Col 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-9
Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, alleluia! Every year on Easter Sunday the churches are filled with people. Easter is not only the highest feast day in the Church, it is the celebration of the single greatest event in human history.
While our Lord’s rising from the dead is momentous in itself and we can rejoice for His sake, that is only a tiny aspect of what His resurrection from the dead entails. Obviously, nothing else we celebrate would have any meaning or purpose had He not risen from the dead, so we have to look at what this means and why it is so important. While we can all be happy for our Lord that He rose from the dead, one has to wonder if would we go to church to celebrate something that affects only Jesus Himself? I think it is critical that we know what this means not only for Jesus, but also for ourselves.
Without the resurrection no one would believe in Jesus. The Acts of the Apostles contains the speech Gamaliel delivered to the Sanhedrin about other men of influence who came before our Lord whom some thought might be the Messiah. They died, their followers disbanded, and nothing came of their claims. In the first reading today St. Peter is emphatic about the resurrection. Not only does the resurrection set Jesus apart from everyone else, but it validates His claim that He is the Messiah.
The work of the Christ took place in the Passion and resurrection. Many people have died horrible and unjust deaths. A few people had been resuscitated, but they would all have to die again. No one had risen from the dead, but the Jewish people knew their Messiah had to die and rise on the third day. This is why St. John stresses the point that he saw the burial clothes in one place, but the cloth that had covered our Lord’s head was rolled up in a separate place. For Him, this was the first evidence that our Lord had risen.
St. Mary Magdalene had come with the news that our Lord’s body was gone, but she assumed His body had been taken away by someone. St. John understood this was not the work of grave robbers when He saw the burial cloths. If someone wanted to steal the body, they would not have taken the time to remove the cloths and, even if they had, they would not have rolled up the napkin that covered the head and set it in a separate place. St. John tells us he saw this and believed. Jesus had not yet appeared, but this was evidence enough for the Beloved Apostle to understand that our Lord’s Body had not been taken away, He had risen.
The resurrection guarantees all the other promises made by our Lord. This is why the Apostles could make such bold claims that continue to affect us today. Jesus is God. He entered into the abode of the dead and destroyed the power of death. He promised that our bodies will rise on the last day. He also promised eternal life to those who believe in Him and strive to live their lives for Him.
St. Paul teaches us that when we were baptized, we were baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ. This made us members of Christ, children of God, and heirs of Heaven. Since we have died a spiritual death through baptism, we now live in Christ. This is why St. Paul tells us to seek what is above where Christ is already seated at the right hand of the Father and that when He appears, we will appear with Him in glory.
The Sacraments would be devoid of meaning without the resurrection. Who would we be baptized into if Jesus is not the Christ, the Son of God? The Eucharist would only be a piece of bread and a symbol of something or someone if Jesus was not glorified. If we are defined as Christian people by our baptism and that reality is found in the Eucharist, then without the resurrection there would be no such thing as a Christian.
So, as glorious as this day is for Jesus, it is also glorious for us. Rising from the dead would be great for anyone we love, but our Lord died and rose because He loves us. He has incorporated us into Himself so we can share His glory. While we are defined by the events that took place on Easter, we are Christians every day. The resurrection is not an isolated event from the past that has no bearing on us; it is the greatest event in history without which we could never know our true dignity. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, 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.