Easter is upon us, a joyful, hopeful and blessed day for all the followers of Christ.
And yet we know that Easter is more than a single day; that it’s a season of fifty days in which we celebrate and reflect upon the meaning of the Lord’s Resurrection. And it’s good that we do so, for the Resurrection is the foundation, the heart and soul of our Christian Faith. We should never take it for granted. As St. Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain.” (I Cor 15:17)
In that context, then, there are three themes you might consider throughout the Easter Season.
The first is that the Resurrection is a real historical event that leads us to a person – the Living Christ. It’s undeniable that after the Resurrection there was something different about Jesus; His appearance was changed, so much so that even His disciples, His closest friends, didn’t recognize Him, at least not at first glance.
And yet it was certainly the same person, before and after the Resurrection. The disciples recognized that too! “Rabbouni,” that is, “Teacher,” Mary of Magdala said as she embraced the Risen Christ after first thinking He was the gardener. (Jn 20:16) “My Lord and my God,” St. Thomas acclaimed when he recognized Jesus after his first moment of doubt. (Jn 20:28) “It is the Lord,” St. John said to Peter when Jesus appeared to them at the Sea of Tiberias and arranged the miraculous catch of fish. (Jn 21:7)
These incidents remind us that our faith is very personal; it’s based on our personal encounter, our friendship with the Lord. As Jesus told His disciples at the Last Supper, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5)
And He goes on to say, “I no longer call you slaves . . . I have called you friends.” (Jn 15:15)
In the Easter Season we reflect upon that truth – that Jesus is our friend, and even more, the source of our life. But that friendship, like every friendship, has to be nourished; that life has to be carefully cultivated. We do so by our prayer and devotion, and by our regular reception of the sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist. And we do so by trying to lead a good and moral life every day, by avoiding temptation and sin, by trying to live as Jesus wants us to live!
The second point is that you and I are now called to be the witnesses of the Resurrection of Christ.
It’s an interesting fact that no one actually saw Jesus rise from the dead, except perhaps the Roman guards, and they denied that it happened. The disciples saw Jesus after He rose, but those encounters were powerful and effective nonetheless; they made a difference. Their encounters with the Risen Christ changed their lives and in turn, they set out to change the world!
The question is this: Are you an effective witness of the Resurrection today, as the apostles were in their time? And make no mistake about it – your example is important for the successful spread of the Gospel in the world.
You see, there are very few neutral encounters with other people. With our families, friends and associates, in our place of work, our schools, churches and neighborhoods; everywhere we go and everything we do, people are watching. Our behavior either draws people closer to Christ or drives them away.
And so you need to ask yourself: Do you believe in Christ? Do you believe in His Resurrection? Does it make any difference in your life? Do you live in away that makes the Christian Faith attractive to others? These questions are terribly important, for if the world today is to believe in Christ it will be because of you and the way you live your life. It’s all on your shoulders, my friend.
Finally, it’s important to recall that the Resurrection of Jesus wasn’t an isolated event. It was meant as a model for all believers.
One of my favorite references about Easter comes from a book entitled, Believing Catholic, by Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati. In reflecting on the meaning of the Resurrection, the Archbishop says the following: “The significance of the Resurrection of Jesus lies in what God says in and through it. In bringing Jesus gloriously back from death, God is saying that a life like that of Jesus is too good to end, too important to be overcome by human sinfulness, too significant to be relegated to the realm of mere memory.”
Dear readers, may we always live in such a way that when our time comes – when our heart grows still and we draw our very last breath – the same thing will be said of us: “his life, her life, was too good to end, too important to be overcome by death.” Thus is the promise of Easter fulfilled.