The mystery of Christ's Resurrection
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
I want to thank all those who helped with and attended the Divine Mercy celebration held at the Church of St. Michael last Sunday, April 16. Our Lord opened the gates of Heaven on that day in a special way! Let us all continue to grow in thanksgiving and confidence in Our Lord’s Divine Mercy!
This week I share with you what our Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches about the Dogma of Resurrection of the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ:
‘“We bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this day He has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus.’(Acts 13:32-33) The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning Truth of our Faith in Christ, a Faith believed and lived as the central Truth by the first Christian community; handed on as fundamental by Tradition; established by the documents of the New Testament; and preached as an essential part of the Paschal mystery along with the Cross: ‘Christ is risen from the dead! Dying, He conquered death; To the dead, He has given Life.’ (Byzantine Liturgy, Troparion of Easter)
The mystery of Christ's Resurrection is a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified, as the New Testament bears wit-ness. In about A.D. 56 St. Paul could already write to the Corinthians: "I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve..." (I Cor 15:3-4) The Apostle speaks here of the living tradition of the Resurrection which he had learned after his conversion at the gates of Damascus. (Acts 9:3-18)
‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.’ (Luke 24:5-6) The first element we encounter in the frame-work of the Easter events is the empty tomb. In itself it is not a direct proof of Resurrection; the absence of Christ's body from the tomb could be explained otherwise. (Cf. John 20:13; Matthew 28:11-15) Nonetheless the empty tomb was still an essential sign for all. Its discovery by the disciples was the first step toward recognizing the very fact of the Resurrection. This was the case, first with the holy women, and then with Peter. (Cf. Luke 24:3, 12, 22-23) The disciple ‘whom Jesus loved’ affirmed that when he entered the empty tomb and discovered ‘the linen cloths lying there’, ‘he saw and believed’. (John 20:2, 6, 8) This suggests that he realized from the empty tomb's condition that the absence of Jesus' body could not have been of human doing and that Jesus had not simply returned to earthly life as had been the case with Lazarus. (Cf. John 11:44; 20:5-7)
Mary Magdalene and the holy women who came to finish anointing the body of Jesus, which had been buried in haste because the Sabbath began on the evening of Good Friday, were the first to encounter the Risen One. (Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1; John 19:31, 42) Thus the women were the first messengers of Christ's Resurrection for the apostles themselves. (Cf. Luke 24:9-10; Matthew 28:9-10; John 20:11-18) They were the next to whom Jesus appears: first Peter, then the Twelve. Peter had been called to strengthen the Faith of his brothers, (Cf. I Corinthians 15:5; Luke 22:31-32) and so sees the Risen One before them; it is on the basis of his testimony that the community exclaims: ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!’ (Luke 24:34, 36)
Everything that happened during those Paschal days involves each of the apostles - and Peter in particular - in the building of the new era begun on Easter morning. As witnesses of the Risen One, they remain the foundation stones of His Church. The faith of the first community of believers is based on the witness of concrete men known to the Christians and for the most part still living among them. Peter and the Twelve are the primary "witnesses to His Resurrection", but they are not the only ones - Paul speaks clearly of more than five hundred persons to whom Jesus appeared on a single occasion and also of James and of all the Apostles. (I Corinthians 15:4-8; Cf. Acts 1:22)
Given all these testimonies, Christ's Resurrection cannot be interpret-ed as something outside the physical order, and it is impossible not to acknowledge it as an historical fact. It is clear from the facts that the disciples' Faith was drastically put to the test by their master's Passion and death on the cross, which He had foretold. (Cf. Luke 22:31-32) The shock provoked by the Passion was so great that at least some of the disciples did not at once believe in the news of the Resurrection. Far from showing us a community seized by a mystical exaltation, the Gospels present us with disciples demoralized (‘looking sad’ see: Luke 24:17; Cf. John 20:19) and frightened. For they had not be-lieved the holy women returning from the tomb and had regarded their words as an ‘idle tale’. (Luke 24:11; Cf. Mark 16:11, 13) When Jesus reveals Himself to the Eleven on Easter evening, ‘he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw Him after He had risen.’ (Mark 16:14)
Even when faced with the reality of the risen Jesus the disciples are still doubtful, so impossible did the thing seem: they thought they were seeing a ghost. ‘In their joy they were still disbelieving and still wondering. ’ (Luke 24:38-41) Thomas will also experience the test of doubt and St. Matthew relates that during the risen Lord's last appearance in Galilee ‘some doubted.’ (Cf. John 20:24-27; Matthew 28:17)
Therefore the hypothesis that the Resurrection was produced by the Apostles' Faith (or credulity) will not hold up. On the contrary their Faith in the Resurrection was born, under the action of Divine Grace, from their direct experience of the reality of the risen Jesus.” (CCC 638-644)
Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Michael, and St. Paul, may our Merciful and Risen Lord Jesus bless you, your families, and our parishes!
In Christ through Mary,