Last week I received an email from someone I had met when I was first ordained. I was surprised but then I thought to myself, this really does represent what Easter and what new life in Christ is all about.
“On March 22-24, 1991 I attended a retreat that you led at St. Mary’s Retreat House in Oxford, Michigan. It was my first retreat, and I was very nervous, not knowing what to expect… and began to think that I really didn’t belong. After your talk on Friday night, I felt for the first time that this personal relationship with Jesus that you spoke of was something that I could have also, and that He wanted it with me also. Before that, I would have thought that it was only for people who were “good enough” and that was probably not attainable for someone like me.
You talked about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and I wanted it more than I had ever wanted anything. On Saturday night, you and several of the ladies prayed over me for that gift. My life changed profoundly at that moment, and by the grace of God, has never gone back. I have continued on this journey with the Lord, and He has given me many opportunities to serve Him by serving His people, hopefully also being His hands and feet here on earth.
You would not remember me, yet your willingness to serve the Lord by being available to His people changed my life forever. I am sure you have touched thousands of other people for Him in your vocation. It reminds me of a pebble thrown into a still lake. When your words and prayer reached me for Jesus, you threw a pebble into the lake. You never saw the ripples that went out from that one pebble, but they continue today. Those ripples will continue long after both you and I are gone home to the Lord. Thank you for your service in Jesus’ name. My life was changed forever and I am eternally grateful.”
In the Easter Gospel accounts, the angel tells the woman who have come to anoint the body of Jesus on Easter morning: “He is not here.”
The Egyptian pyramids are gigantic tombs containing the mummified bodies of Egyptian Pharaohs. Westminster Abby is famous for its tombs and memorials of famous British writers, philosophers and politicians.
But the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, which is empty with an inscription at its entrance says: “He is not here.” We rejoice at this great and unique event by celebrating today, on Easter.
The resurrection of Christ is the basis of our Christian Faith. St. Paul writes: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Corinthians 15:20).
All the basic truths of Christianity are founded on the reality of the Resurrection: “Jesus is Lord; He is risen” (Rom 10:9). The 17th century philosopher, John Locke, some of whose ideas were incorporated into the Declaration of Independence, wrote: “Our Savior’s Resurrection is truly of great importance in Christianity, so great that His being or not being the Messiah stands or falls with it.”
Easter is the promise of our own resurrection.
Jesus declares to Martha at the tomb of her brother Lazarus: “I am the Resurrection and the life; whoever believes in Me will live even though he dies” (Jn 11:25-26). On the Last Day, when Jesus returns in glory to judge the living and the dead and to bring all history to its final conclusion, all the dead will rise, our bodies will be transformed in the power of the Resurrection and we will live forever. By virtue of the Holy Spirit, our Christian life we live right now, is already a participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1002, #1003).
Easter is our hope.
Every time we receive the Eucharist in a state of grace, the church fathers remind us that we are receiving the seed of immortality. This is not just a promise for the future, but it strengthens us to fight against temptations and frees us from unnecessary worry and fear. The prayer of St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, reads: “Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ within me, never to part.”
The Apostles and early Christians and the Saints throughout the centuries were willing to die for their faith because they believed that something in them was greater than what the world offered.
The testimony of the saints throughout the ages points to this fact; who would die for mere words? Something had grasped them that they were willing to lay down everything for Christ. I every age, even our own, which is filled with unbelief and resistance to the Gospel still cannot deny the fact that believers are willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of the Gospel. The Resurrection of Christ points to a greater reality that this world cannot offer us. We are to a Resurrection people. We have been buried with Christ and now have risen with Him. No tomb can hold us down: suffering, struggles, the tensions of everyday life, not even death can break us. And we are to manifest this truth that we are a Resurrection people through acts of love, mercy, compassion and self-sacrificing service. This gives witness to the fact that the Risen Jesus is living in our hearts.
"The Gospel of Easter is very clear: we need to go back there, to see Jesus risen, and to become witnesses of his Resurrection. This is not to go back in time; it is not a kind of nostalgia. It is returning to our first love, in order to receive the fire which Jesus has kindled in the world and to bring that fire to all people, to the very ends of the earth." ~Pope Francis
A blessed and holy Easter
God bless, Fr. Dennis