The Resurrection transformed our world

  • March 22, 2013

Resurrection of the Lord (Year C) March 31 (Acts 10:34. 37-43; Psalm 118; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-18)

If the Easter event occurred in our own day, how would the news be transmitted? We can imagine media blitzes, live interviews, endless analysis by “talking heads” and replay after replay. We would probably tire of the story, and as with most media events, it would soon be supplanted by something more exciting (at least for a time). Media can give us immediacy and a lot of “facts” but it often lacks sincerity, passion and the authenticity of one human heart speaking to another.

The story that the apostles related was as unbelievable and outrageous then as it is today for many people — and yet they succeeded. The message was short and spare — Jesus was a Spirit-filled man who was the fulfilment of ancient promises. He was anointed with power and went about doing good and healing the afflicted. He was killed but God vindicated Him by raising Him from the dead and establishing Him as humanity’s judge. Jesus’ real concern was the forgiveness of sins to all who would accept Him.

The verses omitted from today’s reading contain a vital (and at that time unique) part of the message — God’s compassionate mercy extends to all humanity and God shows absolutely no partiality. How were the apostles so successful in proclaiming their message? The apostles had to relay the wonderful news of Easter by word of mouth. Their proclamation was public and they were exposed to danger in the process. They did not have the resources of an organization or institution at their disposal. It was necessary to convince skeptical people by looking them straight in the eye and speaking from the heart and soul. The earlier bearers of the word had to live out the message they were proclaiming and they also had to suffer for it.

These “handicaps” were actually strengths — it was because of this weakness that the apostles had to rely completely on God and the power of the Spirit. This is part of the simplicity, austerity and spiritual dedication that Pope Francis has called for in recent days. The Church of the Acts of the Apostles should give us inspiration and challenge.

The call to seek the things that are above is not an invitation to other-worldly escapism but a challenge to expand our spiritual and mental horizon. Focusing too much on the concerns of everyday life and what society dishes out or expects from us can be very confining. When we say that we have died and been raised with Christ, it means we have entered into an expansive life that is rooted in God. Thinking in a higher register — in terms of spiritual principles, the teachings of Jesus, the needs of humanity and eternal life — will prepare us for the future fullness of that risen life.

The Resurrection accounts were not meant to convey information but hope, joy and a vision of a transformed future. The empty tomb accounts were dismissed by some people at the time as meaningless. Even the two disciples who entered the tomb did not fully comprehend what had occurred. The rolled-up face covering that had been laid aside was a clue that this was not a prank or a fraud — it was deliberate and careful. The message: death was finished. Even at the end of all that, the two disciples merely returned home — they didn’t quite know what to do next. It fell to Mary Magdalene, left alone and weeping at the tomb, to carry the shattering news to the others.

Jesus was ascending not only to His God and Father but ours too. No longer would there be separation between humans and God, and hopefully no longer between people. Her message as she related the story to the apostles was “I have seen the Lord!” The intensity of that experience transformed her forever — to encounter the Risen Lord is to never be the same again.

Christian proclamation of the Resurrection is often rather anemic, failing to convince by demeanour, attitude and way of life. Our encounter with the Lord should be written on our faces and all of our actions. Let our proclamation be face to face and heart to heart as with the apostles.