'If Christ is not risen, our faith is in vain!'

'If Christ is not risen, our faith is in vain!'

Peter Westmore

With these confronting words, St Paul tells us that Jesus' resurrection - which none of his Apostles or disciples actually saw - is literally true, and that Christianity depends on the truth of this proposition.

The Evangelists tell us that Jesus' disciples were shocked by His crucifixion on Good Friday and, at that moment, believed His mission had come to a tragic and bitter end.

Yet each of the four Evangelists, in his own words, describes how, on Easter Sunday, the disciples made the astonishing discovery that Jesus had risen from the dead: how the two Marys had gone to the tomb to embalm the body, but were met by an angel, "whose face was like lightning and his clothing white as snow" (Matt 28:3), who told them He had risen, as He had promised.

They rushed back to the Apostles, and when the sceptical John and Simon Peter ran to the tomb, they found it empty, just as the women had said. At that moment, John says, "he saw, and he believed" (John 20:8).

Later that day, as two of the disciples were walking towards Emmaus, a small town outside Jerusalem, Jesus suddenly appeared alongside them - though something prevented them recognising Him. After rebuking them for being "so slow to understand what the prophets had written in the Scriptures", Jesus opened to them the full meaning of the Old Testament prophecies about Himself.

After stopping to dine with them at Emmaus, He took bread and blessed it, and instantly, they recognised him "in the breaking of bread", a clear reference to Holy Communion.

He then appeared a number of times to the disciples in Jerusalem and in Galilee, teaching them, and entrusting them with the responsibility to preach in His name to the ends of the earth, to baptise into the Church all who believed in Him.

The Paschal mystery has two aspects: by his death, Jesus Christ freed us from sin; and by His resurrection, He opened for us the way to eternal life.

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