Today’s Responsorial Psalm proclaims: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” We rejoice exceedingly because Christ our Lord, the Paschal Victim, who died for us on the Cross, has risen! Our Easter joy knows no bounds because new life and new hope have been given to us. Our faith is not baseless; it has a solid foundation: the fact that Christ has risen from death.
Given that Christ, on whom our faith is based and in whom we put our hope, has risen and is alive, we can assert that our entire life has meaning and purpose. It is for this reason that Easter is such a joyous celebration. It is the greatest solemnity of the Church – indeed the Feast of all feasts, because everything that came before it – the earthly birth of Christ, his life and teaching and miracles – all point to the great hour of his glorification, which is his death and Resurrection. Our real life and the whole life of the Church flow from the Paschal Victim laying down his life and taking it up again that we may have life (cf. Jn 10:18).
The Scripture readings given to us on Easter Sunday underscore the fact that our faith in the Resurrection of our Lord is grounded on a true historical event. Some dissident theologians have brought confusion to the minds of many people by suggesting that Christ did not really rise from the dead. They consider his Resurrection to be a “myth” or merely “spiritual imagination.” We, however, put more trust in the Scriptures, the Word of God, than in any human theory. Jesus Christ himself said that he was going to be killed and that he would rise on the third day. He who is the Truth cannot but say what is true. And St. Paul strongly affirms that if there is no resurrection then our whole faith is worthless, and we are the most pitiable of all people (cf. 1 Cor 15:17-19).
The eyewitnesses of the risen Lord, Mary Magdalene, John, Peter and Paul, all confirm to us that they truly encountered the Lord physically and not in a dream or vision. With his usual insightful analysis, Pope Benedict sheds light on the historical reality of our Lord’s Resurrection. He writes: “The encounters with the risen Lord are not just interior events or mystical experiences – they are real encounters with the living one who is now embodied in a new way and remains embodied.” “He [the risen Lord] appears now as true man and yet as coming from God – as being God himself” (Jesus of Nazareth, Part Two: Holy Week, p. 268).
St. Peter bears witness to the Resurrection by recounting that he and the other witnesses “ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” This eating and drinking shows that the risen Lord is not a ghost. He does not belong to the realm of the dead; he is alive! At the same time, we are not to think that Jesus’ Resurrection was simply a return to normal biological life, for he remains alive and will never die again.
While the Resurrection of Jesus is a historical event, at the same time it transcends history. This is because it is an event that ushers us into a reality that extends beyond this world, the reality of life in God. St. Paul exclaims that there is nothing that can be compared with the “supreme advantage of knowing Jesus Christ and the power of his Resurrection” (cf. Phil 3:8-10). Jesus Christ with the power of his Resurrection dispels gloom and darkness in our lives and then imbues us with his own life, joy and peace – a life that already begins here on earth and that will be fully manifest for all eternity in heaven. Thus, in today’s second reading, St. Paul urges us to fix our gaze on “what is above,” for we now have a new life which at present is “hidden with Christ in God,” but which will appear in glory.
To attain the reality of heaven – to have access to the supreme advantage of knowing Christ and the power of his Resurrection, which is the true joy of Easter – St. Paul encourages us to clear out the “old yeast of malice and wickedness.” This remains an important task for us, because to cling to sin is to prevent the great victory of Christ from having its full effect in us. The corporeal and spiritual disciplines we practiced throughout Lent are not to be forgotten. They are the means by which we clear out the old yeast of sin so as to celebrate Easter meaningfully. Our Easter joy depends on our collaboration with the grace of God.
The “clearing out of the old yeast” applies in a particular way to our participation in the Eucharist. Every Mass is essentially an Easter celebration where the sacrifice of Christ our Paschal Victim is made present. The Church teaches us that we cannot survive spiritually unless we receive Holy Communion at least once a year (the “Easter duty”). Following the wisdom of St. Paul, she urges us to clear out the old yeast – to be in the state of grace – in order to receive Communion worthily and profitably. “Therefore, let us celebrate the feast” – Easter – “with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Do I see the stone of my heart that blocks the light of the Risen Lord? How can I share my experiences of God with others? What blocks my vision from seeing the face of Jesus he purposely reveals for all of us to see?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 15, no. 4. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.