In the eastern tradition of the Catholic Church on Easter Sunday the priest proclaims: “Christ is risen.” And the people respond: “He is truly risen!” This is a beautiful expression of the belief and joy of Easter morning. We believe that the Good News of the Christian Gospel does not end with Good Friday but with Easter Sunday.
Let us go back in time to try to appreciate the experience of the early disciples of Christ on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The disciples had spent three years with Jesus and tried to understand who He was and what He was about. When Jesus started talking about going up to Jerusalem to suffer and die, they ignored Him and argued among themselves who was the greatest. When Jesus asked them who they thought He was, Peter said He was the Christ, the Son of the living God. But then, when Jesus spoke about how He would suffer and die, Peter told Him this should never happen. In effect, he tells Christ how to be Christ. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God but you should not suffer.
When Jesus asks them to stay with Him as He prays in anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane, they fall asleep. When He is arrested on the evening of Holy Thursday, they scatter. When He goes to the Cross on Good Friday, they disappear. The death of Jesus on the Cross is a moment of despair for them. They are thrown into confusion and fear and lock themselves in an upper room.
So, when Jesus rises from the dead on Easter morning, this is not the source of joy and excitement we might think. They do not understand the meaning of the Resurrection because they rejected His suffering and death. Since they did not participate in the crucifixion, they could not appreciate the Resurrection. They heard the news of the empty tomb but they remained locked in confusion and fear. It was only with the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, that they received the gifts of understanding and courage and went to out to proclaim Jesus as the Risen Christ. The Resurrection did not mean a return to the good old days when Jesus did the preaching and the healing and they muddled along beside Him. The Resurrection brought life out of death. The resurrection signaled that Jesus believed in His disciples more than they believed in themselves. In the Resurrection Jesus entrusted His message of love and His mission of hope to the disciples. In His Resurrection, Jesus conquered death (the ultimate symbol of evil) not only in His own life but for all human life.
How does all of this apply to us today? First, we need to allow Christ to be Christ and to love us in the way he chooses by dying on the Cross for us. Second, Jesus believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. Our confidence and our worth comes from Christ, not from comparison and competition with others. Third, the power of God’s love is greater than the power of evil. Fourth, this life is not all there is. Expecting too much from this life will only lead to disappointment. By His Resurrection Jesus offers us life without suffering or pain in the Holy Presence of God. Fifth, true happiness is ours when we live for others, not simply for ourselves and when we journey together, not as individuals isolated and alone.
Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen! HAPPY EASTER!!!
And remember: “Fear is useless; what is needed is trust” (Mark 5: 36).