In his essay on the resurrection C S Lewis tells of a man who once told him “the importance of the Resurrection is that it gives evidence of survival, evidence that the human personality survives death.” To that, Lewis and every faithful Christian would reply “that is certainly NOT what the earliest Christian writers thought”. Nor would the first disciples, beginning with Mary Magdalene. Peter and John, have recognized such a banal statement as anyway near to the truth. The resurrection is not ghost survival. The very Jesus Christ, Son of God who died on the cross for us is the same who rose from the dead is the same Jesus now glorified. He offers us all a new mode of being, a radical, revolutionary new beginning to human life. He changes human destiny from sin and death to life that is eternal. God has come down to us, “down into the world, one with us humans so as to pull us up with him”.
That early first Easter morning, Mary sets out in the dark with nothing but the pious hope to be able to anoint his dead body, say a prayer and mourn. She finds not a body but an empty tomb. Puzzled, uncertain, Peter and John arrive and find the tomb empty of the body and all the coverings of a dead body neatly laid aside. Why? Think about it! That tomb wasn’t his! It belonged to Joseph and served only as a passageway for Jesus. Those burial cloths serve no purpose. Jesus has gone beyond the limits of human life and “human personality”. Mary is frightened and uncertain. Peter and John are still not sure. They do not understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.
But we do! And the experiences of the first witnesses are re-told for our benefit, so that we might know the truth, so that we might believe! In a world of many competing messages, the message of Jesus is the only one that says: I am! I am! He says what no other teacher has said or could say: I am! The very words God said of Himself! I am! I am the way, the truth and the life!
We have just heard the witness of the first apostle, Peter. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that he be visible…to us, the witnesses chosen by God…who ate and drank with Him after he rose from the dead…He is the one appointed by God to be the judge of the living and the dead…Everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins through His name.
There is a straight line between those words of Peter through all the Popes to Pope Francis who today proclaimed: Love has triumphed over hatred, life has conquered death, light has dispelled the darkness. There is a straight line from Mary Magdalene and all the first disciples, women and men, to you and me who believe and who witness by our being here. That same faith, that same witness we share with those watching on Telecare and all our brothers and sisters around the world. Jesus Christ is risen! He is truly risen. Alleluia!
St. Paul calls us a new creation and he is right! Today he uses a very homely image which is quite exact! A little leaven leavens all the dough. Clear out the old yeast…Let us celebrate the feast not with the yeast of malice and wickedness but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. How much the world needs that today: the leaven of sincerity and truth. And we can be the bearers of that message if we let ourselves be instruments of his love, his mercy, his peace.
Pope Francis reminds us the world proposes that we put ourselves forward at all costs, that we look out only for ourselves! But the Risen Christ shows us another road for humanity: HIS way is the way of truth and life, the way of service, respectful and ready to help! Ours is the leaven of sincerity and truth!
There is so much unjust suffering in our world today especially among our own brothers and sisters in Christ! Throughout the world, the yeast of malice and wickedness is wreaking havoc on religious and ethnic minorities. Religious freedom and respect for the human rights and dignity of others must be our watchword. In sincerity and truth we must speak out against the violence that has brought death to students in Kenya, the butchering of Christians in Syria and Iraq and the new barbarism that destroys civilizations as it enslaves young girls and teaches young boys to kill. And, as Pope Francis said, if, from the leaders of the world and from us, there is silence, our silence makes us accomplices! May WE show the sincerity of the truth by words and actions that show the power of truth, beauty and love.
Here in our own country, despite the efforts these past several years to defend religious freedom, there are forces at work to divide our society and weaken the most basic of human rights, the right to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. Human rights and civil rights are not the same thing. Human rights are ours from God and inherent in every human by virtue of our common humanity. The state cannot “grant” these human rights. God has already given them to us all, without exception. I recall some years ago in Havana, Fidel Castro made the claim that Cuba recognizes human rights so long as they do not go against what the state decrees. Today we too find some in our country who openly challenge the basic human right of religious freedom if it goes against their own special interests. There is a new intoletrance for and hatred aimed at believers, especially Christians. When civil statutes contradict or curtail true human rights, like freedom of religion, those civil rights run counter to natural law or divine law. And positive laws that compromise true human rights are unjust and must be opposed.
The true good of every human being is found in the message of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. He offers new hope to all of humanity. He went to his death out of love for every human being without exception. He came to give life and life to the full, not just to some but to all, not just to the righteous but to sinners, not just to us and those who are like us but to all, especially the poor the marginalized, the vulnerable. For He has broken down the barriers and made us all one people. What he has done, he calls us to do. No more bread of malice or deceit. Instead, let us share the bread of heaven, the bread of sincerity and truth, the Eucharistic bread that makes us one. So nourished we believe all, we hope all, we love all.
If he is risen, then so are we! And so is everyone else in promise and in hope. Christ is Risen. He is truly risen. And He says to us today, PEACE TO YOU. FEAR NOT. I AM RISEN AND I SHALL ALWAYS BE WITH YOU EVEN TILL THE END OF THE AGE!