We read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: 'The Pharisees and many of the Lord's contemporaries hoped for the resurrection. Jesus teaches it firmly. To the Sadducees who deny it he answers, 'Is not this why you are wrong, that you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?'' (Mk 12:24; Acts 23:6).
Faith in the resurrection rests on faith in God who 'is not God of the dead, but of the living' (Mk 12:27). 'I am the Resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?' (Jn 11:25; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 993-994).
One with Christ
It is the teaching of Our Lord that he has been raised from the tomb and lives: this is the heart of the Resurrection feast. Therefore like Jesus, we who are Baptised and believe are destined to rise in the flesh.
St Paul stresses this in his Letter to the Romans: 'For since we have become one with him dying as he did, in the same way we shall be one with him by being raised to life as he was ... For when a person dies, he is set free from the power of sin. Since we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him' (Romans 6:5-8.)
Because of Christ's resurrection, peace and joy are secured for everyone who believes. Easter - the resurrection of Jesus - means that all the Old Testament prophecies are true, that God exists; that He reveals himself in His own Son, Jesus of Nazareth, who, having assumed our guilt for sin, went to the Cross for us, rose from death. He now lives, intervenes in our lives, and awaits us at the close of earth's pilgrimage, to embrace us forever.
Easter is a day of faith because we know that even though we cannot fully understand God's words, we believe that they are true, we have faith. The words of the angel in the tomb refer to us in our belief: 'Don't be alarmed, I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here - he has been raised ... He is going to Galilee ahead of you, there you will see him, just as he told you' (Mk 15:6-7).
Thus founded on the belief of the resurrection, our faith assures hope, and consequently, joy in living. But for those countless people who do not know Christ, the world can be empty and one of no hope.
The annual celebration of the feast of the resurrection of Our Lord from the dead reminds all mankind that even the spiritually dead can rise to life: to a real consciousness of life's nature and goals.
The events after the resurrection are also significant for us. Jesus appears to his disciples in the upper room (Jn 20:19-31). His greeting to them has special significance. The 'peace' he wished them is that grace-filled assurance of a loving relationship with the Lord and with one another. He can make that wish because he himself is now united with the Father, the giver of all good gifts.
Even closer to the heart of the resurrection's mystery are these words of Jesus: 'Receive the Holy Spirit'. In his final words to his disciples before his death, Jesus told them he must 'go', that is, back to the Father, in order that he might send the Spirit in power upon them (Jn 16:7).
An effect of the resurrection and the Spirit's sending can be seen in the building of the community of Christians, the Church. It reminds us of the earthly power of Jesus.
But now it is that of the risen Jesus working through the Apostles and their successors, namely his 'sent ones'. For Jesus' resurrection made it possible for the Apostles and their successors to imitate the earthly Saviour with the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Easter is a living event. We who follow the Risen Lord are allowed to feel the breath of immortality so that we will be empowered to rise above our weakness, ignorance and wretchedness. In St Paul's words to the Colossians: 'Since you have been raised up in company with Christ, set your heart on what pertains to higher realms where Christ is seated at God's right hand' (Col 3:1).
Fr Dennis W. Byrnes, a retired parish priest and regular contributor to AD2000, resides in Port Macquarie, NSW, in the Lismore Diocese.