Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Resurrection

* I have skipped ahead in Cardinal Bacci's book in order to commemorate today's glorious feast
1. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a fundamental truth of our faith. Jesus intended it to take place in such a way that nobody could reasonably deny it. There is no historical fact which can be upheld by such clear and ample evidence as the Resurrection of Our Lord. It emerges most of all from the absolute certainty of Jesus' death. After the fearful scourging, crowning with thorns, and crucifixion, His blood had poured forth for three hours from His nailed Hands and feet. Moreover, even though he saw that Christ was dead, the Roman soldier pierced His heart with a lance. His body was taken down from the cross and enclosed in the tomb until the third day. Jesus, therefore, was dead and buried. But there is still further proof. The Jews remembered that Jesus had prophesied that He would rise on the third day. For this reason they had the sepulchre sealed and they placed a guard of soldiers beside it so that the body could not be stolen. In spite of the enormous stone at the mouth of the tomb, however, Our Lord rose in glory, flinging the sentries into a state of terror and confusion. The frightened guards ran to the leaders of the Sanhedrin and related what had happened. If the Jewish authorities had believed that the soldiers were responsible, they would have punished them, and if they had believed that the body of Our Lord had been stolen, they would have searched for it. Instead, they bribed the soldiers to say that the body of Jesus had been stolen while they were asleep (Mt. 28:12). St. Augustine comments on the stupidity of the Jews in calling on the testimony of sleeping witnesses! Jesus, moreover, saw to it that St. Thomas would not be present when He appeared to the other Apostles, and that he would believe only when he had seen the wounds in His hands and feet and had placed his finger in the gash made by the lance in Our Lord's side. What further evidence could anyone expect? There is a still stronger proof, however. After the death of Jesus the Apostles were an insignificant group of discouraged and disillusioned men, without the daring or the ability to accomplish anything. It was only the Resurrection of Jesus which could have given them the supreme courage to stand up to the Jews and to convert the world. Let us fall in adoration before the risen Christ and say with St. Thomas the Apostle: My Lord and my God! (John 20:28)

2. Even as Jesus rose from the dead, so we shall rise again. This is a dogma of our faith. "I believe ... in the resurrection of the body." When Job was seated on his dunghill, his body rotting with leprosy, deserted by everybody, scorned by his wife and reproved by his friends, he found comfort in this great truth. I know that my Vindicator lives, and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust where I myself shall see, and not another-and from my flesh I shall see God: my inmost being is consumed with longing (Job 19:25-27). St. Paul described this resurrection. In the twinkling of an eye, he says, at the sound of the trumpet of the Eternal judge, our bodies will be reformed and will have life again. We shall all rise, but not all in the same manner. The body which was the companion of the soul during our mortal life will once again be its companion and share with it either the eternal glory of Heaven or the everlasting pains of Hell (Cf. I Cor. 15) We shall live forever like Jesus. "I believe in life everlasting," in everlasting happiness in Heaven or in eternal damnation in Hell. This great truth is a warning to us. If we remember it all our lives, we shall not steer our course towards evil and towards Hell, but towards goodness and towards Heaven, where one day we shall come to rest in a land of lasting happiness.

3. Our resurrection must begin in this life, however. Day by day we must work hard for our spiritual resurrection. We should give this matter our special attention during Paschal time. Our resurrection must be real and not apparent like that of many people who celebrate Easter without any sincere intention of changing their lives. It should not be imperfect like that of Lazarus,(Cf. John 11:43) who rose for a while and died again, but perfect like that of Jesus, over whom death no longer has dominion (Cf. Rom. 6:9). In other words, we must rise never again to die in sin, which is the real death of the soul. We must rise also to ascend higher and higher on the way of perfection and to carry out Our Lord's command: You therefore are to be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Mt. 5:48) Our life should be a continual resurrection, a continual ascent towards perfection which will raise us from sin to the state of grace, from the state of grace to fervour, and from fervour to sanctity.