Easter Sunday is the greatest Sunday of all! Jesus is alive since “it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24). Adam’s rebellion is reversed and our communion with God is restored. We have become partakers in the divine nature, assured of divinization. What a great paradox to be so immeasurably rewarded for our sinfulness – O Happy Fault! That is the amazing splendor of God’s ineffable love, the unfathomable, inexhaustible fountain of divine mercy.
Christ’s resurrection means everything for us: It gives meaning to the blood-stained darkness of the cross and authenticates everything Jesus said and did – his claim to divinity and the power to forgive sin; his teachings and miracles; his universal call to holiness; his plan to give grace through a Church that will endure forever; and his promise to lead us into the eternal banquet of heaven. All these would have amounted to nothing with his resurrection. He would have ended up as another dreamer who did not get far enough. As St Paul says: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17)
The Resurrection is our unassailable guarantee of eternal life. No other religion has the same clarity and hope in real life after death. The polytheistic religions of old had no supernatural dimension. Religion was a way to explain the natural forces beyond their control: life and death, food and light, the seasons and the stars. The Ancient Egyptians had an interesting concept of the afterlife. They believed that the soul leaves the body at death, to return later. Therefore, the body needed to be preserved to make it recognizable on the soul’s return, or else it could not re-enter it. That’s how the great Egyptian mummies developed. The mummies were buried with masks resembling the dead person to make it easier for the soul to identify it. And since the dead were thought to need most of their personal effects in the afterlife, the families made sure to put these things in their graves; and the rich were provided luxurious accommodation in the form of magnificent tombs.
For the Hindus, the soul travels through a long and dark tunnel after leaving the body, and so they light a lamp beside the head of the corpse to illuminate its way. The Hindus, like the Buddhists and the Sikhs, believe in reincarnation whereby the soul assumes different life forms in a cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Your moral conduct in the present life determines your existence in the next. A bad behavior could mean reincarnation as an animal, while a good conduct reincarnates in a prosperous human life. In some African cultures, a dead king was not only buried with his personal effects, but also with a few slaves to serve him in the afterlife.
Judaism was entirely different because it was the only religion that consisted in God’s self-revelation to man, instead of striving to understand God. Judaism recognized a personal, transcendent God and the Jewish people had a supernatural vocation, which was obscured by sin, so they began to seek heaven on earthly terms. Currently, they are still expecting the Messiah in the form of a political liberator. Islam is an attempt to reinvent the Old Testament type of faith – incomplete, but closer to the truth than the old pagan religions. Therefore, it is only the resurrection of Christ that consummates the revelation of man’s supernatural vocation. By rising from the dead, he transcends all the limitations of nature, not by dissolving into nothingness, as some ancient religions believed, but by entering the glory of complete communion with God. That is the ultimate vocation of mankind. In Christ, without losing our personalities, we become participants in the life of the Trinity. This is the amazing revelation of Easter and this is what sets Christianity apart!
Therefore, we rejoice that Christ lives and he reigns! The tomb is empty! The stone is overturned! Darkness is eclipsed, and the shadow of the cross is dispelled by the bright morning star! Christ’s apparent failure has transformed into victory, just like the seed that disappears under the ground only to rise again in fresh, new growth. The darkness of sin is over and the sun of righteousness shines again. That is the basic pattern of Christian life: apparent failures thriving into victories. When we follow Christ to Calvary to die to ourselves in the painful surrender to God’s will, we also rise with him in a new birth to innocence and a life of grace.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, as we thank God for the privilege of sharing in this victory, let us not just enjoy Easter, but let Easter change our lives. Easter is more than a mere celebration. It is the power of eternal life at work in us – the power to reconcile and to heal; the power to forgive no matter how grievously or how long we have been hurt; the power to break the barriers of hatred and division; the power to overcome addictions, sinful habits and inordinate creature comforts; the power to restore hope and trust in each other; the power to live a life of holiness and sacramental vitality; the power to demonstrate our faith in works of charity; and the power to live united in the bond of peace as people of “one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:4-6). Easter is the power to be what God has called us to be!
Therefore, let us resolve to do something special between now and Pentecost to show our gratitude to God for the gift of Easter. What are you going to do? May the light of the Resurrection and the blessings of Easter be yours in full measure! Amen!
Readings: Acts 10:34, 37-43; Psalms 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9