On Sunday we celebrated the Solemnity of Easter, the most important liturgical celebration of the year. So grand, so significant is Easter that each Sunday of the year is a reflection of this feast to some degree. Each and every holy sacrifice of the Mass, though, is a memorial of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection (cf. CCC 1330). It is important, then, to realize what sets apart the celebration of Easter from the rest of the year, apart from the colorful dresses and elaborate dinners that have become traditional for this time of year.
On Good Friday, Jesus Christ, the Son of God sent to ransom the world for our sins, hung on the Cross and, after three hours of agony, “bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (Jn:19:30). Though Jesus had warned His followers of His necessary death, they were unable to understand what He was saying and were utterly shocked at what finally happened outside Jerusalem’s walls on that dark day. What a turn of events from when that very city had joyfully embraced Christ’s entrance only a few days earlier! Separated from their teacher and friend, and struggling to deal with the chaotic incomprehensibility of that Passover weekend, the disciples of the Lord locked themselves in the Upper Room of their Last Supper, fearful of what awaited them outside and in the future. Imagine their surprise, then, when Mary Magdalene burst into their presence and breathlessly announced that Jesus’ body had been taken from where it had been laid. Immediately, Peter and “the beloved disciple” ran to the tomb of Jesus, not prepared for what awaited them. What comes next would alter both their and our lives forever.
Jesus was dead. There was no doubt about that. The news that Jesus was not in His tomb must have inspired those two disciples with a much needed measure of hope, if not curiosity and wonder, as they boldly ran through the streets to see the sight for themselves. Jesus’ Resurrection was unprecedented, that is, totally and radically new— no one had ever been raised from the dead like this before! Though they were not yet able to fully express, let alone comprehend, what had happened, the disciples would have had their hearts aflame with the news, a combination of joy, relief, praise, excitement, comfort, and hope that needed to be shared with the other followers of the Risen One.
Upon their return to the Upper Room, Peter and the beloved disciple, along with Mary Magdalene and the other women with her, become the first evangelizers— proclaimers of the resurrected Christ to the world. Here we find the origins of the Resurrection language Christians used two millennia ago and continue to speak through today. As part of the New Evangelization, we too are called to share the Good News of Christ’s victory over death with everyone, friends and family, peers and enemies alike. It is impossible (if not selfish) to keep such wondrous news to ourselves— we need to share the joy and enthusiasm of the disciples as they gradually began to recognize the significance of the Resurrection, initially in the empty tomb and later through their encounters with the living Jesus. How, then, can we ever become complacent in our celebrations of Easter? In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we anticipate Christ’s first coming into the world with carols, treats, and gift-giving. Easter is so much more important! As the Catechism states:
“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” The Resurrection above all constitutes the confirmation of all Christ’s works and teachings. All truths, even those most inaccessible to human reason, find their justification if Christ by his Resurrection has given the definitive proof of his divine authority, which he had promised… The Paschal mystery has two aspects: by his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life. This new life is above all justification that reinstates us in God's grace, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (651, 654)
It is often said that without Easter there would be no Christmas (Or Good Friday). This day celebrates the most important event in all of history, when our lives were changed forever. Now living in the promise of eternal life, we are called to obey Christ’s great Commission, to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt: 28:19) This isn’t confined to the octave of Easter (which is technically an eight-day celebration) or one liturgical season, but each and every moment of our lives, through our thoughts, words, and actions. The Resurrection of Jesus is not merely a moment in time, but the very definition of time itself. No matter how dark or painful our lives may seem, we can find comfort in the joys of Easter and carry the spark of that day each day of our lives, to be shared with all. Let us cry out in song that Christ has been raised from the dead: Alleluia!
For one of my favorite Easter hymns, check out the video below: