Today, Easter Sunday is our high, Holy day. I have to admit, that as an adult, this took some getting used to. When we are younger we think about Christmas, and we as children understand the magnitude of the “Christ-mass”, the day God is born among us; we celebrate with many gifts.
So how could Easter, in effect trump Christmas, because make no mistake about it, Easter is OUR day!
For an answer we turn to scripture. In today’s first reading, we hear St. Peter proclaim Christ raised from the dead. This is profound in so many ways.
First, we must understand the terror of the Crucifixion. I have heard it said that it was the electric chair of ancient Rome. This is a bit off. Actually this is not even close. As terrible as death by electrocution must be, crucifixion was something much harsher. Add to that what Jesus endured, being betrayed, abandoned, then mocked and spit on (by his own people) and then finally stripped, scourged, and mocked (again) as king of the Jews. Finally he is nailed to the cross through his hands and feet. He is placed in a position on the cross so that he would suffocate slowly to death, all the while enduring his other near fatal wounds.
How could a body so betrayed be raised? How could it function after such torture? Certainly this body could not gain new life. We will return to this in a moment, but let us recall our Psalm from today, “The stone that the builder has rejected, has become the corner stone.”
Secondly, returning to how weighty Peter’s statement is, one must wonder how Peter went from hiding in the Cenacle to proclaiming Jesus in the Temple, the setting for today’s first reading. All the Apostles, except St. John, hid once Jesus was captured. And they remained in hiding for many days, perhaps weeks. The first book following the Gospel, “The Acts of the Apostles” (from where we hear our first reading today) begins with Saints Peter and John preaching to the very people who condemned Jesus in the Temple. But how?
It is the RESURRECTION.
It bears reapeating, IT IS THE RESURRECTION.
That is what differentiates us as Christians, and especially as Catholics. We believe in life after death, everlasting life. And we are called to eternal life in heaven, among all the angels and saints where we are called to be beyond joy. We are called to be accepting of Christ and learning, learning to live His Gospel, his Way, imitating his life.
In today’s Gospel, we hear about those two favored Apostles again, Peter and John. Saint Mary Magdalene calls them to see the empty tomb. John arrives first (he is a bit younger) and waits for Peter. Peter looks in and is confused. In his mind he must be echoing the Magdala’s cry, “They have taken my Lord away and I do not know where they put him.”
Then John goes in and sees and he knows that Jesus has been resurrected from the dead. The Son of God and the son of Mary has risen.
Imagine John’s delight knowing that it is all true. Peter will also understand soon (and of course the Magdala).
This is our faith. This our faith, is on what we stake our claim on to the world. We believe that God so loved the world he sent his only son to us, to you and to me. Jesus is his son, flesh and bones like you and I but also, in this great mystery, the one true God.
The Christ came not for himself but for us, for our salvation to give us a share of his heavenly kingdom. That is what Easter is about- that we are called out of this world to heaven... That is why we are to recognize our earthly lives as a pilgrimage to heaven…. A place so fantastic that words cannot describe and as vivid as our imaginations are, they will always fall short.
We are called to eternity, heavenly bliss. Not to a six figure job, not to that dream house, not to whatever we think will make us happy. No, there are many good things but all of these things are misleading, they are false truths as compared to what we are truly called to.
We are called to live in Christ. When we get this, and it is not easy, we have a profound sense of his love, God’s love for us and the world. Once we receive this certain grace, then we are called to give it away to friends and yes, to strangers. That is who God is, that is what truth is. Truth is a person; he is Jesus Christ, who is God.
Its not about material gifts, as fun and as important that Christmas is. It is about something much greater: eternity. Today, in the grace of this great feast we call Easter, we are called to accept this with our “eyes” of faith (like St. John), with our hearts (this is where our faith resides). Faith is love, something that we cannot buy or sell. Faith in God is love of God. That is our great Easter mystery. As the Psalmist says, let us rejoice and be glad.